Hospitals turn to AI to identify potential patient no-shows

UMC Utrecht. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hospitals are increasingly using artificial intelligence to identify patients who are likely not to show up for appointments, current affairs programme Nieuwsuur found.

Thousands of hospital appointments are missed every year and now an AI tool predicting potential no-shows has proved so successful at the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam that other hospitals are following suit.

“We are looking at earlier appointments, if people showed up, or were late. But we also look at the distance they have to travel to get to the hospital. If patients turn out to have a high chance of not turning up, we ring them beforehand, as a friendly reminder, of course,” Ilse Kant, AI implementation manager at the UMC Utrecht, told broadcaster NOS.

At UMC Utrecht, which experimented with the tool at its lung unit, the number of no-shows fell by 30%. “We are going to use at all the units and we are hoping for an overall reduction of 15% to 20%,” Kant said.

A missed appointment is a missed opportunity for the patient who is not getting the care he needs but also for hospitals which are struggling with long waiting lists and capacity problems, she said.

The use of AI is controversial, particularly when it comes to personal data. “We have chosen not to include personal data such as postal codes, for instance, which could be linked to social-economic status,” said UMC Utrecht data scientist Eric Wolters. “We only use the characteristics of the previous appointments and the patient’s age. The elderly can be less mobile and that may be a reason for not attending.”

While some hospitals fine patients who don’t show up, UMC Utrecht hopes the tool will solve the problem.

No shows are also becoming more common at doctors’ surgeries and family doctors, too, have taken to fining no-shows.

Doctor Sascha Kotter charges €15 for repeated no-shows, she told the Parool. “We have a chat with them about why they don’t come, and we make a note of it in their file if it happens frequently. Them before they can make another appointment, they have to pay the €15.”

Kotter said the practice makes an exception for patients who have difficulty reading or have not understood they were given an appointment for some other reason. “Sometimes they are so stressed out they forget. Then we need to talk,” she said.

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