Objective: Forgetting is commonly stated as a reason for missing mental health appointments. The authors examined the effect of short message service (SMS), or text message, reminders on the attendance of appointments at four community mental health clinics in London.
Methods: Attendance of outpatient appointments roughly between March and June of 2008 (N=648), 2009 (N=1,081), and 2010 (N=1,088) was examined. Reminder messages were sent seven and five days before an appointment in 2009 and seven and three days before an appointment in 2010; patients in the 2008 sample received no reminder messages. Appointment attendance during the sample periods was compared by using multiple logistic regression analysis and adjusting for sociodemographic and clinical confounders.
Results: Missed appointments accounted for 36% of appointments in 2008, 26% of appointments in 2009, and 27% of appointments in 2010. The relative risk reduction in failed attendance was 28% between the 2008 and 2009 samples and 25% between the 2008 and 2010 samples. Attendance rates were significantly higher for the 2009 and 2010 samples than for the 2008 sample (p<.001) but did not differ between the two intervention periods.
Conclusions: SMS-based technology can offer a time-, labor-, and cost-efficient strategy for encouraging engagement with psychiatric outpatient services. In England alone, a reduction of 25% to 28% in missed outpatient clinic appointments would translate to national cost savings of more than £150 million, or $245 million, per year, and likely have clinical benefits as well.