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February 23, 2009

SMS driving efficiency

LONDON, England – Developing new technologies is vital, but implementing older ones well is equally important. We’ve just registered at a new dentist only to find our appointments are to be confirmed (and reminded) by SMS. I’m surprised, and a touch amazed, as it’s the first time I’ve seen or experienced technology being implemented in such a useful way. It appears that even in our lonely little outpost in South East London, mobile phone penetration has reached such a point that such a service can be implemented, and relied upon. But that isn’t really the point here. I’ve since done a little digging to find that a similar service was first tried in Helsinki back in 2007, and another service has been run by the Swedish National Health service since 2003.

The idea behind these services is to reduce the number of unattended appointments. And the system works. The Swedish health service saw a drop of 16 per cent in uncanceled appointments in the first year, whilst the trial in Helsinki whilst not as impressive, still saw a significant reduction in unannounced absences. Both systems are being run by the local health authorities, whereas ours comes courtesy of a private practice.

It wouldn’t be difficult (as proven by Sweden and Finland) for other healthcare organisations to roll this system out, and to take it beyond dental care into general healthcare. In fact, any organisation that requires appoinments to be kept (which frequently aren’t). I know I’m much more inclined to send or respond to a text than I am to make a call (is it just me?).

Applying SMS in such a way reminds me of the kind of stuff going on in emerging or developing countries, where frequently SMS is not only the most cost-effiecient route to reach people, but frequently the only route.

I’d be interested to hear about any other places you’ve unexpectedly come across mobile technologies, and why or how they might have made a difference to you.

Photo by lexrex