Missed medical appointments costly for VIHA

  • May. 31, 2011 10:00 a.m.

Automated phone reminders make worthwhile difference

Though Canadians are quick to complain about wait times for medical tests, thousands miss their appointments every year on the Island alone.

So the Vancouver Island Health Authority has put out a request for proposals to provide an automated reminder service to call patients and remind them of their pending appointments.

“It’s a problem for us,” said Bob Brandt, VIHA’s director of medical imaging services. “There’s such demand for (these tests). If that spot sits empty, it could have been filled and that could affect the wait list positively.”

On Vancouver Island, 3,507 medical imaging appointments were missed between September 2009 and April 2010. In an effort to reduce the number, VIHA tested an automated phone system that reminded patients of their appointments. In the same period the following year, that reminder service made 82,000 calls. There were 272 fewer missed appointments in that period.

Brandt said the less than eight-per-cent improvement is worth it. “It’s about that spot sitting empty,” he said. “(Missed appointments are) always going to happen. We’re not going to capture everybody, even with these reminder calls. It’s proven to reduce that margin and we’re looking to do that.”

Before the automated service, medical imaging staff made those phone calls themselves.

Proponents are expected to have capacity to make 250 concurrent phone calls to patients and be able to update patient records in real time. The RFP closes June 3. For details, visit www.bcbid.gov.bc.ca and search 03-RFP-426.

ecardone@vicnews.com