June 10, 2013

Health dept. to start texting appointment reminders

By Rob McDaniel
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The Laurel County Health Department recently received a grant from the Department of Public Health for equipment that can text appointment reminders to patients 24 hours prior to their appointment.

Currently the staff at the health department schedules 80 to 90 appointments a week, usually two to three months in advance.

Mark Hensley, Pubic Health Director in Laurel County said that implementing the text message reminders will help patients remember appointments that are scheduled so far in advance.

“We have about 40 percent of patients who don’t keep their appointments,” Hensley said.  “About 80 percent of those patients report that they miss their appointments because they forgot.”

The texting program has been up and running for about a month, Hensley says he believes that there has already been an improvement in patients keeping appointments in that time.

The grant will allow the health department to maintain their texting program for six months.  After the six month time frame, the program will be evaluated to determine its effectiveness and a decision will be made from there as to whether the program will be implemented permanently or not.

“We can do more than just text appointment reminders to patients,” Hensley said.  “If we have to be closed or open late due to inclement weather we can send one message and it will go to all the patients with appointments scheduled that day, letting them know about the closing or delay.”

Previously the health department staff had tried making telephone calls to remind patients of appointments, but that method was ineffective.

“We tried phone calls,” Hensley said.  “It’s extra work for the staff here.  We have to set time aside for that.  A lot of the time we can’t get in contact with the patients because they give us home phone numbers.  People always have their cell phones on them, so texting reminders is much easier in terms of contacting people.”