SMS service saves GP practice 600 appointments a year

Sending text messages to inform patients about results of routine blood tests has freed up more than 600 appointments per year in a London GP practice.

Text messages: GP access boost (Photo: JH Lancy)

Dr Muhammed Akunjee and Dr Nazmul Akunjee from West Green Surgery in Haringey piloted a novel system for giving patients their results.

The GPs found that patients were booking appointments to receive results from non-urgent blood tests. Patients who required a prescription – for example, for iron or vitamin tablets – or a follow-up blood test could instead be contacted by SMS.

‘This process has freed up a lot of appointments, and has very high satisfaction rates from the patients,’ Dr Akunjee told GP.

‘The doctors go through the consultation and if no red flags are noted – if they are simply a stable patient with slightly low ferritin - they can be sent a text asking them to pick up iron tablets.’

Safety net

Dr Akunjee said that patients were happy to be contacted by text, and were urged to book an appointment if they had any problems. ‘There is a safety net element to this – if patients had certain symptoms or any concerns, they were asked to speak to the doctor,’ he said.

Only 5-10% of patients went on to book a GP appointment to discuss their results further, but Dr Akunjee described them as ‘focused consultations’ where patients were already well-informed and had specific issues in mind to discuss with their doctor.

The scheme has freed up 12-15 appointments a week, which adds up to more than 600 appointments per year. This is the equivalent of a single doctor’s session, which could cost £10,000, according to the surgery’s estimates.

Dr Akunjee says other GP practices can easily benefit from the system, which uses an email system to send the texts and an EMIS template to record actions. ‘Other practices will be able to implement this immediately,’ he said.

‘No additional hardware is needed – this is very simple, low-tech, can be done in any practice tomorrow, and would result in improvements to access overnight.’

The doctors are now planning to roll out the text message scheme to deliver results to patients who have had an ultrasound scan or X-ray.

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