Mobile telephone short message service reminders can reduce nonattendance in physical therapy outpatient clinics: a randomized controlled trial

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Jan;93(1):21-6. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.08.007. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Objective: To investigate whether short message service (SMS) reminders reduce nonattendance in physical therapy outpatient clinics.

Design: Prospective single-blinded randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Two physical therapy outpatient departments in metropolitan acute public hospitals.

Participants: Participants with an appointment in a physical therapy outpatient clinic and who provided a contact mobile telephone number were included. Participants were excluded if their appointment was scheduled for the same day on which they made the appointment.

Intervention: Participants allocated to the intervention group received an SMS reminder before their next appointment; participants allocated to the control group did not receive a reminder.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome was rate of nonattendance without cancellation. Secondary outcomes were cancellation and attendance rates and exploration of other factors associated with nonattendance.

Results: Patients (N=679) were allocated to receive either an SMS reminder (n=342) or no reminder (n=337). The nonattendance rate for patients who did not receive a reminder (16%) was more than nonattendance for patients receiving the SMS reminder (11%; odds ratio, 1.61; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03-2.51; number needed to treat, 19; 95% CI, 9-275). There were no differences in cancellation or attendance rates between groups. Exploration of other factors found that patients who were younger with a neck and trunk musculoskeletal or a neuromuscular disorder and who were scheduled to have an initial appointment or an appointment on a Monday or Friday were significantly predictive of increased nonattendance.

Conclusions: SMS reminders can reduce nonattendance in physical therapy outpatient clinics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appointments and Schedules
  • Australia
  • Cell Phone*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Reminder Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Young Adult