From a release:

HALIFAX: Diagnostic Imaging departments across Cape Breton are expanding the trial of automated appointment reminder calls to help prevent no-shows, a common and costly problem that extends wait times.

Last year there were more than 4,600 no-shows for scheduled diagnostic imaging appointments at facilities in Cape Breton and in Antigonish and Guysborough counties, often resulting in unused appointment times and inefficient use of staffing resources and equipment. This included more than 1,000 no-shows for ultrasound appointments at Cape Breton Regional Hospital. 

There can be many reasons why patients cannot make their appointments, but by notifying staff in advance, patients may allow others to be booked in their place. 

Since late June, patients scheduled for ultrasounds at Cape Breton Regional Hospital have been receiving automated phone calls in the days leading up to their appointment, using the Pro-show system.

In the new year, the system will be expanded to provide automated reminders for patients having ultrasounds, CTs or MRIs at facilities across Cape Breton.

For patients with caller ID, the calls show as coming from an unknown name/unknown number. When patients answer they hear a computerized voice recording reminding them of the date, time and location of their appointment.

It also reminds them to follow the instructions provided in their booking notice and provides a phone number should they need to reach the department.

The automated system attempts to reach patients up to five times, including the morning of their appointment and stops once the call has been answered. It also leaves a message.

Previously, staff would call many patients to confirm appointments. But this manual process is time consuming, particularly when patients cannot be reached on the first call. 

This project is helping staff evaluate the role automated reminders can serve in preventing no-shows. It has the potential to reduce:

  • downtime for staff and equipment
  • administrative and clinical demands associated with booking, re-triaging patients, rescheduling appointments or making reminder calls 
  • overall wait lists, to support more timely access to care 

Based on the ongoing results from these trials, the Pro-show system may be expanded to other services, facilities, or health zones.