CINCINNATI -- Over nine million scheduled appointments at Veterans Affairs hospitals every year wind up being no-shows. According to Cincinnati VA Medical Center group practice manager Mike Biery, most of those absences aren't the fault of patients.
Instead, he said, they're the fault of cumbersome infrastructure that often fails to remind veterans they're expected and makes it difficult for them to cancel or reschedule. Biery and others at the Cincinnati VA hope to buck that national trend with a new service: VetText.
VetText is simple. It texts veterans to remind them of scheduled appointments seven and two days in advance, at which point they can confirm they'll attend or indicate a scheduling conflict will prevent them from doing so.
"We are seeing many of our clinics where the no-show rate is below 10 percent," Biery said. "We've never seen it there. Ever."
Before VetText, appointment reminders relied on the labor of actual humans making phone calls and stuffing envelopes. According to Biery, the sheer volume of appointments overwhelmed the employees who were tasked with making the reminder calls.
For veterans who don't text, the Cincinnati VA also uses a robocalling service for appointment reminders.
"The second night we had it turned on, it made 650 calls in two hours," Biery said. "At five minutes a call, if an individual person had to do that, it would take a human 54 hours to make the same calls the automated system made in two hours."
Adding robots to the call team means human staffers have more time for person-to-person work within the hospital, Biery added.