How Effective Are Short Message Service Reminders at Increasing Clinic Attendance? A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review
Article first published online: 8 NOV 2011
© Health Research and Educational Trust
Health Services Research
Volume 47, Issue 2, pages 614–632, April 2012
How to Cite
Guy, R., Hocking, J., Wand, H., Stott, S., Ali, H. and Kaldor, J. (2012), How Effective Are Short Message Service Reminders at Increasing Clinic Attendance? A Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review. Health Services Research, 47: 614–632. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6773.2011.01342.x
- Issue published online: 8 MAR 2012
- Article first published online: 8 NOV 2011
- Reminder systems;
- health services;
Background and Objectives
In the last few years there has been a steady uptake of mobile phone short message service (SMS) reminders to increase medical attendance rates. We undertook a review of studies that assessed the effectiveness of SMS reminders at increasing the uptake of appointments in health care settings.
We reviewed studies which involved a comparison of appointment attendance rates between patients who did and did not receive SMS reminders published prior to June 2010. We used meta-analysis methods to calculate the overall effect on attendance rates, stratified by study design and clinic type.
The review criteria were met by 18 reports, made up of eight randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 10 controlled observational studies. Across all studies, there was significant heterogeneity in the estimated effect measure of the relationship between use of SMS reminders and clinic attendance (I2 = 90 percent; p < .01), so a summary effect estimate was not calculated. Stratification by study design showed that the heterogeneity was due to the observational studies. The summary effect from the RCTs was 1.48 (95% CI: 1.23–1.72) with no significant subgroup differences by clinic type (primary care clinics, hospital outpatient clinics), message timing (24, 48, and 72+ hours before the scheduled appointment), and target age group (pediatric, older).
Short message service reminders in health care settings substantially increase the likelihood of attending clinic appointments. SMS reminders appear to be a simple and efficient option for health services to use to improve service delivery, as well as resulting in health benefits for the patients who receive the reminders.