Background: Non-compliance is a common cause of failed medical action, contributing to absence of regular check-ups. Our group has already published studies that analyse the level of non-compliance with appointments amongst patients attending our Allergology clinic, and we have made proposals for improvement.
Objective: This article evaluates the results obtained three years after setting up and launching telephone reminders for patients' first appointments.
Methods: All patients who were given appointments for first and subsequent visits during 2005 were included. A total of 18215 appointments were studied (3115 first appointments and 15100 subsequent ones). Of these, there were 2479 missed appointments (438 first appointments and 2041 subsequent ones), corresponding to 2215 patients (412 first visits and 1803 subsequent ones), with a mean of 1.12 appointments/patient/year.
Results: The non-compliance rate was 13.61%. The most common non-compliers were men (14.11% missed appointments against 13.24% missed appointments in women) and in the age range 20-29 years and 30-39 years (16.46% and 15.28% non-compliance, respectively). The mean age of non-compliers was 34.55 +/- 14.73 years. We observed a significant number of patients who missed more than one appointment (5.12% of all non-compliers and 0.7% of all patients). Differences were found in the degree of non-compliance depending on the type of appointment (14.06% non-compliance with first visits and 13.52% with subsequent visits). We observed a significant increase in missed appointments during the Summer holidays; July and August showed the highest percentage of missed appointments for both the first visit (20.62% in July and 23.59% in August) and subsequent visits alike (16.14% in July and 14.23% in August).
Conclusions: A slight reduction in non-compliance was observed after implementing the proposals made in our previous study. In view of the high costs incurred from missed appointments, the government should finance studies to reduce this problem. The causes of non-compliance may be difficult to control, including present access to the public health service. We must be alert to and/or take preventive measures in young patients and cases of previous non-compliance. The degree of non-compliance is a quality indicator, because it reduces the yield of appointments, and it evidences a lack of cohesion of patients with Primary Health Care Units for first appointments, and with Specialist Care Units for subsequent appointments. Once certain levels of attendance have been attained, it is difficult to achieve an effect on this point in order to improve attendance rates.