The effect of telephone reminders on attendance in respiratory outpatient clinics

J Health Serv Res Policy. 2007 Apr;12(2):69-72. doi: 10.1258/135581907780279567.


Introduction: Patient non-attendance is an area of concern for all health care providers. A randomized controlled trial was undertaken to investigate whether reminder telephone calls improved attendance at respiratory outpatient clinics in the English National Health Service (NHS).

Methods: Patients were randomly allocated into one of two groups, either telephone reminder group or usual care. The telephone reminder group received a reminder telephone call between 9 am and 5 pm during the week prior to their appointment. Attendance and demographic information (age, sex, diagnosis and home postcode) were recorded.

Results: A total of 504 patients were recruited, 258 patients were allocated to the control group and 246 patients were allocated to the telephone reminder group. Fifty-eight percent of the patients allocated to the telephone reminder group were not contactable. Within the telephone reminder group, of the 104 patients who could be contacted, 86% attended. There was a significant 15% increase in attendance in the contacted group (n = 104) when compared both with the control group (71%, n = 258) and with the patients who could not be contacted (68%, n = 142) (P = 0.007; P = 0.004). It was estimated that the cost of telephoning 200 patients could be offset by preventing one non-attendance.

Conclusion: Routine telephoning of outpatients should become standard practice if reducing non-attendance is thought to be desirable, but general practitioner (GP) referral letters and hospital records of current hospital outpatients need to include an up-to-date telephone number. Consideration should be given to 'out-of-hours' reminder calls to maximize the contact rate.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Compliance / psychology
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Reminder Systems / economics
  • Reminder Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Respiration Disorders / therapy*
  • State Medicine / organization & administration
  • State Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Telephone
  • United Kingdom