How we check patient mobile numbers for scheduled messages and appointment reminders

This article describes how we check the latest mobile number when sending a pre-scheduled message

Vicky avatar
Written by Vicky
Updated over a week ago

Some of our features allow messages to be sent automatically in the future, for instance, individual pre-scheduled messages (aka Pathways), Scheduled Batch messages or pre-set appointment reminders.

How do we pull patient mobile numbers for scheduled messages?

In order to make sure we’re sending these messages to the most up-to-date number for the patient, we perform the following checks to validate the phone number:

  • On initially queueing a scheduled message (which includes manual messages from Clinicians), we fetch the mobile number stored in the EPR (Electronic Patient Record - aka. EMIS, SystmOne, Vision etc).

  • In the 24hrs before a delayed message is sent - we compare the stored mobile number for this patient against Personal Demographic Service (PDS, also known as ‘the spine’)

    • If these match, we assume the patient has not changed mobile number, and so we use this number to send the message.
      [This is based on the knowledge that EPRs and PDS must be kept in sync as part of their responsibilities to each other]

    • If these two numbers differ, out of caution, we re-check with the clinical system to get the latest number stored in the record, to guard against the possibility there has been a mistake in the sync between the EPR and PDS - where we prefer the EPR number.

Why not just check the EPR (clinical system) each time?

Unfortunately, checking EMIS or SystmOne for every appointment reminder and scheduled message represents a very high load on these clinical systems, which risks performance degradations for Clinicians. We, therefore, prefer, where possible, to use previously stored numbers and cross-reference these with PDS - and only re-check with Clinical Systems where they differ.

How do we pull patient mobile numbers for Appointment Reminders?

We fetch the mobile number stored in the EPR (Electronic Patient Record - aka. EMIS, SystmOne, Vision etc).

A patient has received a text that wasn’t meant for them. What should I do?

There are a few things you can investigate if a patient says they’ve received a message that was meant for someone else:

  • Identify what type of message it was, and that the message was sent to the intended patient (i.e. the message is saved in the right place, and that it wasn’t a simple human error in sending to the wrong patient).

  • Take a look at the number stored for the patient in their record: does this align with the number that received the message?

  • Confirm if PDS and the clinical system are synchronized by following the guidance for your clinical system (here for EMIS, or by searching for PDS in the SystmOne Help menu). If you do notice a mismatch in patient contact details that you can’t resolve, please report it directly to NHS PDS by contacting them here. The National Back Office is responsible for resolving PDS data quality issues.

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