The Royal Free Hospital in north west London has started using SMS text messaging to allow patients to quickly and anonymously arrange appointments at their Sexual Health Clinic.
Under new Government legislation, these clinics are required to offer patients an appointment within 48 hours, but understandably many patients did not want to visit or phone the centre during office hours, and were often held in a call queuing system if when they tried to phone. Not ideal.
The new system lets people automatically book appointments out of hours. At the end of each day, the system is fed a current list of free appointment slots. Patients can then text a dedicated number from their mobile phones, and they receive a reply with a choice of three appointments within the next 48 hours. Once the patient has responded with their choice, their mobile phone number is used as a temporary patient number, and they receive one more message with a confirmation booking reference, which is then confirmed when the patient attends the clinic. Messages can be used for other data such as postcode, gender, and date of birth, and a different patient phone number can be given out for each unique clinic or service.
It sounds like a great use of modern technology that saves money, improves accuracy, and helps patients make quick and private appointments whenever it suits them.