Text messaging has become the dominant form of communication. So that’s why it would make sense to send patients appointment-reminders via text message. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology determined that texting a patient to remind them of their upcoming MRI exam reduced no-shows by 1.3 percent.
From July to October 2016, a group of researchers from Harvard Medical School and Mass General Hospital assigned 6,989 patients to either a “texting” or “nontexting” cohort. Based on a determined schedule, the texting group received both the usual phone call and a text message reminding them of their upcoming MRI exam. The nontexting group only received a phone call reminder. The researchers discovered that despite the fact that 30 percent of the texting group didn’t have a working mobile number, the no-show rate dropped from 5.1 percent to 3.8 percent.
According to a lead author, Chang Liu, MA, the wait time for MRI exams is one of the longest waiting periods for a procedure at Mass General. MRI exams also take longer than other kinds of imaging procedures. “A missed appointment is both a waste of a valuable slot and a potentially long delay in the care of the patient as they wait for the next open slot,” wrote Liu. As a result of the steep fees associated with MRIs, hospitals and clinics suffer from major resource and financial losses.
At Mass General, the approximate 45,000 MRI exams conducted annually add up to about $25 million in revenue. By decreasing no-shows by just 1.3 percent could save the hospital $325,000 a year.
However, in terms of improving punctuality, the researchers found that the text messages didn’t prompt patients to arrive early to their appointments as instructed.