SMS reminders before health appointments are effective

Yes, it may sounds superfluous to report such results, but all interventions should be monitored and evaluated and no effect can be taken for granted. Background and main results quoted below from this review1


This review is an update of the original Cochrane review published in July 2012. Missed appointments are a major cause of inefficiency in healthcare delivery with substantial monetary costs for the health system, leading to delays in diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Patients’ forgetfulness is one of the main reasons for missed appointments. Patient reminders may help reduce missed appointments. Modes of communicating reminders for appointments to patients include face-to-face communication, postal messages, calls to landlines or mobile phones, and mobile phone messaging. Mobile phone messaging applications, such as Short Message Service (SMS) and Multimedia Message Service (MMS), could provide an important, inexpensive delivery medium for reminders for healthcare appointments.

Main results:

We included eight randomised controlled trials involving 6615 participants. Four of these studies were newly identified during this update.

We found moderate quality evidence from seven studies (5841 participants) that mobile text message reminders improved the rate of attendance at healthcare appointments compared to no reminders (risk ratio (RR) 1.14 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03 to 1.26)). There was also moderate quality evidence from three studies (2509 participants) that mobile text message reminders had a similar impact to phone call reminders (RR 0.99 (95% CI 0.95 to 1.02). Low quality evidence from one study (291 participants) suggests that mobile text message reminders combined with postal reminders improved the rate of attendance at healthcare appointments compared to postal reminders alone (RR 1.10 (95% CI 1.02 to 1.19)). Overall, the attendance to appointment rates were 67.8% for the no reminders group, 78.6% for the mobile phone messaging reminders group and 80.3% for the phone call reminders group. One study reported generally that there were no adverse effects during the study period; none of the studies reported in detail on specific adverse events such as loss of privacy, data misinterpretation, or message delivery failure. Two studies reported that the costs per text message per attendance were respectively 55% and 65% lower than costs per phone call reminder. The studies included in the review did not report on health outcomes or people’s perceptions of safety related to receiving reminders by text message.

  1.  Gurol-Urganci I, de Jongh T, Vodopivec-Jamsek V, Atun R, Car J. Mobile phone messaging reminders for attendance at healthcare appointments. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD007458. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007458.pub3. (link)