Effectiveness of telephone reminders in improving rate of appointments kept at an outpatient clinic: a randomized controlled trial

J Am Board Fam Pract. 2001 May-Jun;14(3):193-6.


Background: Clinic appointments in which patients do not appear (no-show) result in loss of provider time and revenue. Previous studies have shown variable effectiveness in telephone and mailed reminders to patients.

Methods: We conducted a randomized controlled trial of telephone reminders 1 day before the scheduled appointments in an urban family practice residency clinic. Patients with appointments were randomized to be telephoned 1 day before the scheduled visit; 479 patients were telephoned and 424 patients were not telephoned.

Results: The proportions of patients not showing up for their appointments were 19% in the telephoned and 26% in the not-telephoned groups (P = .0065). Significantly more cancelations were made when telephoning patients before their visit, 17% compared with 9.9%. The opened scheduling slots were used for appointments for other patients. This additional revenue offset the cost of telephone intervention in our cost analysis.

Conclusion: Reminding patients by telephone calls 1 day before their appointments yields increased cancelations that can be used to schedule other patients. Telephone reminders provide substantial net revenue, but the results may be population specific.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / economics*
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Program Evaluation / economics*
  • Reminder Systems / economics*
  • Telephone / economics*