New ways to cut missed appointments

Times Series: Outpatient consultations via Skype are becoming increasingly common for patients who do not need a physical examination Outpatient consultations via Skype are becoming increasingly common for patients who do not need a physical examination

Technology such as smart phones and tablets are being used to reduce the numbers of missed GP and outpatient appointments.

It is estimated that more than 12 million doctors' appointments are missed each year in the UK, costing in excess of £162 million a year while just under seven million outpatient hospital appointments are missed each year, costing an average of £108 per appointment in 2012/13.

Missed appointments, known as did not attends or DNAs, can cause serious delays in treatment for other patients.

But by making the appointment system fit into patient's lives more easily, the NHS hopes to cut the numbers of missed appointments and save precious resources.

Simple initiatives such as sending email and text reminders are now used by many clinics, and are already beginning to have an impact with outpatient DNAs falling to 9.1% from 10.5% in 2008/9.

The NHS is also rolling out solutions which let patients check, book and cancel appointments at their own convenience and order repeat medication online.

In an effort to get the message across to the wider public of the cost of missed appointments, the NHS is using today's Change Day 2014 to appeal to patients to turn up and help push DNA numbers even lower.

Change Day asks patients, staff and providers commit to one action that will improve care within the NHS. The scheme, in its second year, has already seen 225,000 people make a personal pledge to improve the NHS, which prior to launch is already up on last year's total of 189,000 pledges.

Doctors are also making the most of the rise of smartphones and tablets to connect with patients with outpatient consultations via Skype becoming increasingly common for patients who do not need a physical examination.

Telecare and telehealth services are also expanding, which means patients can monitor their health at home and access medical advice without regular visits to their surgery.

Beverley Bryant, of NHS England, said: "It's important that people realise that not turning up to appointments can have a big impact on the care and treatment we are able to give other patients. It wastes doctors' and nurses' time too, which costs taxpayers money.

"Patient care is always at the top of our agenda. That's why we are doing everything we can to make our service match with people's lifestyles and the technology they use, to give more people easy access to the services they need. We hope the public will do their bit too by making sure they attend or cancel appointments in good time. That way, everybody benefits."

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