• Failure to attend out-patient clinics: is it in our DNA?

      Roberts, Kinley; Callanan, Ian; Tubridy, Niall; Department of Neurology, St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland. (2012-02-01)
      PURPOSE: This paper aims to determine the reasons why patients miss clinic appointments and to ascertain patients' views on the implementation of reminder systems and penalty fees to reduce the rates of did not attend (DNAs). Overall, the paper seeks to establish novel ways to run a more efficient out-patient department (OPD) service to improve waiting times and access for patients to limited neurology resources. DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: A questionnaire-based study was approved by the audit committee and was offered to 204 out-patients attending the neurology clinics over a three-month period (July to September 2009). The patients' demographic details and non-attendance records were reviewed. The paper aimed to ascertain, from the patients' perspective, why people failed to attend clinic appointments. Each participant was asked their views on how they felt their public hospital service might reduce the number of DNAs at their neurology OPD. FINDINGS: A total of 204 patients took part. Participants had a mean age of 31 years (range 25-75 years) with a modal peak in the 26 to 35 age bracket. Almost 10 per cent of those surveyed admitted to missing a hospital out-patient appointment in the past. The most common reason was that they simply "forgot" (28 per cent). DNA rates by age range were proportionally similar to the overall age profile of attenders. Over 55 per cent said they would like a pre-appointment reminder via a mobile telephone text message, 19 per cent preferred a pre-appointment telephone call, and 19 per cent an e-mail. Of those surveyed, 47 per cent said they would be willing to pay a fee on booking that could be refunded on attending for their appointment. The majority of these felt Euro 20 was the most appropriate amount (39 per cent). The rate of acceptance for various fee amounts was uniform across age ranges. Over half (52 per cent) said that they would agree to a "buddy" system whereby the appointment reminder was sent to the patient but also a nominated friend or relative. ORIGINALITY/VALUE: Non-attendance rates at the neurology clinics in our institution are high with almost 10 per cent of attendees admitting to missing an appointment. One of the main reasons why people did not attend was because they simply "forgot" that they had an appointment and the patients favoured a text messaging reminder system to help reduce non-attendance. Almost half of the respondents said that they would be willing to pay a refundable booking fee.