The effectiveness of SMS Reminders and the impact of patient characteristics on missed appointments in a public dental outpatient clinic

Emilia Bellucci, Lasitha Dharmasena, Lemai Nguyen, Hanny Calache


This paper reports on the Failure To Attend (FTA) rate of appointments as well as patients following the implementation of SMS reminders in a public dental outpatient service.  Given the ineffectiveness of the intervention and a highly representative patient’s profile, this paper identifies the demographic characteristics of patients who miss all of their appointments.  Data on appointment attendance, patient demographics and dental service type was collected over a time period of 46 consecutive months.  Using descriptive and inferential statistics (chi-square, two sample tests and Marascuilo procedure) we found the SMS intervention was ineffective in reducing the FTA rates. Further, patients associated with high rates of non-attendance exhibited one or more of the following characteristics: male; age 26 – 44; non-concession card holders; a person of Indigenous, local, Asian or African descent, and of refugee status, persons living in low socio-economic areas; and appointments in General Care and Student Clinics. Whilst the literature overwhelmingly attributes SMS reminders to improving the attendance rate of patients in outpatient clinics, our contradictory findings suggest a more targeted approach in settings whose patients exhibit strong characteristics associated with non-attendance. 


Non-attendance; SMS reminder service; Public Outpatient Clinics; Dental Health Services; Patient demographic and appointment characteristics

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ISSN: Online: 1326-2238 Hard copy: 1449-8618
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