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SMS reminders reduce cancelled colonoscopy appointments by 28% at London hospital

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King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (KCH) has successfully implemented Healthcare Communications’ digital pre-procedure preparation SMS reminders which are helping to reduce the backlog of colonoscopy procedures.

Over six months, the implementation has resulted in a 28 per cent reduction in cancelled colonoscopies, with projected savings of £130,000 annually while significantly tackling backlogs and helping patients receive more efficient care.

The introduction of the SMS reminders has helped address a critical issue within colonoscopy procedures.

It is estimated that 5 per cent of colonoscopies are incomplete due to patients failing to follow pre-procedure instructions.

This leads to wasted appointment slots, repeat procedures, delays in treatment and contributes to increased waiting times for other patients.

By implementing this solution, KCH has effectively tackled the problem, which has resulted in significant improvements for patients and the hospital.

Dr Mayur Kumar, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Clinical Lead for Endoscopy- (PRUH) at KCH, said: “There is a national shortage of colonoscopy and endoscopy capacity, and so we can ill-afford to waste appointments.

“It is absolutely vital that each and every appointment slot is utilised effectively.

[The] majority of cancers are diagnosed through colonoscopies; it’s an incredibly important and life-saving procedure which is used to diagnose many patient conditions, so it needs to be used as efficiently and time-sensitively as possible.”

Automated SMS messages provide patients with appointment reminders and pre-procedure instructions.

Patients receive a standard reminder 14 days before their appointment, followed by reminders seven days, three days, and 48 hours prior to the procedure.

The communications also include detailed video instructions ensuring patients are well-prepared for their colonoscopy.

Further reminders are sent at 24 or 22 hours before the appointment to reinforce the importance of following the pre-procedure instructions.

These are scheduled in accordance with patient’s scan time, so that patients are able to complete instructions at the correct time, reducing the number of patients coming to appointments unprepared.

KCH and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust successfully partnered to secure funding from NHSX for the joint project aimed at reducing wasted slots and repeat procedures caused by poor bowel preparation.

The two-year plan, supported by Healthcare Communications, has now become a routine process following successful implementation.

To ensure the success of the digital communications initiative, surveys were conducted to assess patient preferences across all demographics.

This found that digital literacy was not a hindering factor, even among elderly patients.

It was revealed that 83 per cent of patients agreed to use digital communications across all age groups.

For those patients who don’t have or feel comfortable using a smartphone, paper appointment letters are offered as an alternative and are sent in the post.

Kenny Bloxham, Managing Director of Healthcare Communications, said: ” The successful implementation of digital patient communications at KCH represents a significant step forward in streamlining healthcare processes, enhancing patient experiences, and ultimately saving lives.

“We hope that this project at KCH will serve as a model for other healthcare organisations seeking to improve efficiency and tackle backlogs in patient care.”

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