Nfld. & Labrador

Huge number of missed appointments comes at big cost, says Eastern Health

Ten per cent of appointments missed works out to about 6,000 a year, says an Eastern Health official.

Health authority asking the public how it can improve communications with patients

Could a better system let patients decide their appointment time or offer transportation options? Eastern Health wants to know. (Shutterstock)

About 10 per cent of scheduled medical appointments are being missed across Eastern Health's departments and offices and the health authority is inviting the public to join them in a brainstorming session aimed at solving the problem.

The missed appointments contribute to "a lot of waste in the system," said Ron Johnson, vice-president of information services at Eastern Health, noting that 10 per cent works out to about 6,000 missed appointments a year.

"It means that the wait lists get a little longer when they could be shortened." 

He can't say exactly how much the skipped appointments cost the health authority, but says the skipped sessions translate to a "significant loss in productivity."

There are a number of reasons on the patient's part for the missed appointments: forgetfulness, transportation issues, timing conflicts or even symptoms easing up, he said.

Hacking Health

But it's not all one-sided, he said, and to figure out how Eastern Health can make improvements on their end to solve the problem, the health authority is hosting a special session called Hacking Health on Wednesday night at Memorial University's medical school.

Members of the public, especially patients, are invited to get together with a group of health-care officials, designers and programmers to discuss the problem and possible solutions.

And yes, there will be food.

The health authority wants the public to help solve the problem of missed appointments. (CBC)

Could patients pick appointment times?

Right now, Johnson said Eastern Health uses a semi-automated system to schedule and remind people of their appointments — which are often scheduled far in advance of the actual appointment, he acknowledges — with phone calls, texts and emails.

"But even still using that technology we know that while we've made gains, we think there's a lot more that we could improve upon," Johnson said.

He's particularly interested in figuring out if there are systems that could be put in place that allow patients to pick their appointment time instead of relying on an automated system, or if the scheduling system could also help patients figure out their transportation options.

There have been a number of Hacking Health events over the past few years and they're often very good for getting to the heart of a problem and figuring out how to solve it, he said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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