Thu 17th Oct, 2019

iPLATO’s SMS-reminder service recommended to increase uptake of national NHS screening programmes

iPLATO’s GP endorsed SMS reminders have been named as a high priority method to increase screening uptake in England. Following the release of Professor Sir Mike Richard’s independent review yesterday he calls for the NHS to make a number of changes to its screening services to ultimately save lives.

Sir Mike Richards review made a number of recommendations to improve and increase uptake of adult NHS screening programmes in England. Commissioned by NHS England and supported and championed by Secretary of Sate for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, the review seeks to ensure lives are saved by addressing a number of areas such as availability, increase of use of technology and booking systems, updated equipment and facilities and improved communication channels.

It is a major concern that for both breast and cervical screening programmes uptake is at an all-time low and as stated in the report ‘any screening programme can only achieve its goals if a significant proportion of the eligible population choose to participate.’

There is much published evidence to prove that SMS reminders improve screening uptake. ‘Recent evidence showed that text message reminders (SMS-R) improved participation in breast and bowel cancer screening, and that SMS-R message content affects clinic attendance.’[i]

‘About 4500 lives are saved annually in England through cervical screening. If all eligible women participated regularly, 83% of cervical cancer deaths could be avoided.’i A recent collaboration between iPLATO, Public Health England, NHS England and Improvement and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has proven that SMS reminders increase uptake of cervical screening. A recent project run across London, resulted in an increase of 4.8% of women attending their screening appointment – an extra 1300 women were screened, solely through implementing SMS reminders in the region.

iPLATO, is a healthcare technology company based in Hammersmith, London. Its Engagement Hub product has been used by a number of CCGs and national bodies throughout the country to increase uptake across all major NHS screening programmes.

Mike Lewis, Chairman at iPLATO Healthcare, commented ‘it’s fantastic that after meeting with Sir Mike, and explaining the work that we have been doing across a number of screening programmes he has listed our SMS reminder service as a high priority for increasing uptake. We have implemented projects for many NHS screening programmes including diabetes, breast and cervical screening all with huge success. To be included and recommended in such a pivotal report is a real testament to the work, dedication and commitment from the team here to not only simplify access to healthcare but to save lives.’

iPLATO’s Engagement Hub is able to extract and send GP endorsed SMS reminders to eligible patients’ mobile number with no intervention from a GP practice. It allows central, regional and national teams to collaborate with GP surgeries to facilitate advanced patient engagement at scale. This permits healthcare providers to run population-wide, multi-channel patient communication campaigns to achieve optimal patient outcomes, achieve NHS targets and save lives.

With the additional recommendations for increased access, a focus on technology and an all-round approach to prevention was welcomed by Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive who said:

“I’m grateful to Sir Mike for taking on this important assignment. Sir Mike’s sensible recommendations keep all that is good about NHS screening services, while rightly setting out a blueprint for more convenient access, upgraded technology, and progressively more tailored approaches to early diagnosis.”

Currently NHS screening programmes save around 100,000 lives a year through prevention and early diagnosis but there is much that can be done to increase this figure and saves the lives of people throughout the country.

[i] Huf et al. 2017. Behavioural text message reminders to improve participation in cervical screening: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet. 390 (46) https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)32981-1/fulltext.

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