366: Phone messaging increases attendance at healthcare appointments

October 20, 2012

PEARLS 366, written by Brian R McAvoy

Clinical question: How effective are mobile phone messaging reminders for attendance at healthcare appointments?

Bottom line: There was moderate quality evidence that mobile phone text-messaging reminders were more effective than no reminders, and low quality evidence that text-messaging reminders with postal reminders were more effective than postal reminders alone. Text-messaging reminders were similar to telephone reminders in terms of their effect on attendance rates, and were more cost-effective than telephone reminders.

Caveat: The studies were heterogeneous and the quality of the evidence was low to moderate. None of the studies reported on health outcomes, user evaluation of the interventions, user perceptions of safety, costs or potential harms, or on any adverse effects of the interventions.

Context: issed appointments are a major cause of inefficiency in healthcare delivery, with substantial monetary costs for the health system, leading to delays in diagnosis and appropriate treatment. PatientsÕ forgetfulness is one of the main reasons for missed appointments, and reminders may help alleviate this problem. Mobile phone messaging applications could provide an important, inexpensive delivery medium for reminders for healthcare appointments.

Cochrane Systematic Review: Car J et al. Mobile phone messaging reminders for attendance at healthcare appointments. Cochrane Reviews, 2012, Issue 7. Article No. CD007458. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007458.pub2. This review contains four studies involving 3547 participants.

Pearls are an independent product of the Cochrane primary care group and are meant for educational use and not to guide clinical care.