Emely Ek Blæhr; Thomas Kristensen; Ulla Væggemose; Rikke Søgaard
Background: Nonattendance at scheduled appointments in public hospitals presents a challenge for efficient resource use and may ultimately affect health outcomes due to longer waiting times. Seven percent of all scheduled outpatient appointments in the United Kingdom are estimated to be nonattended. Various reminder systems have been shown to moderately reduce nonattendance, although the effect of issuing fines for nonattendance has not yet been tested in a randomized context. However, such use of financial incentives could impact access to care differently across the different socioeconomic groups. The aim of this study is to assess the effect of fines on hospital outpatient nonattendance. Methods/design: A 1:1 randomized controlled trial of scheduled outpatient appointments was used, with follow-ups until the date of appointment. The setting is an orthopedic clinic at a regional hospital in Denmark. Appointments for users who are scheduled for diagnostics, treatment, surgery, or follow-ups were included from May 2015 to November 2015. Appointments assigned to the intervention arm include an attachment of the appointment letter explaining that a fine will be issued in the case of nonattendance without prior notice. Appointments assigned to the control arm follow usual practice (same system but no letter attachment). The primary outcome is the proportion of nonattendance. Secondary outcomes are proportions of cancellations, sociodemographics, and health-problem characteristics. Furthermore, the intervention costs and production value of nonattended appointments will be measured. An analysis of effect and cost-effectiveness will be conducted based on a 5 % significance level. Discussion: The study is initiated and funded by the Danish Regions, which have the responsibility for the Danish public healthcare sector. The results are expected to inform future decisions about the introduction of fines for nonattendance at public hospitals.
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