Retaining homeless veterans in outpatient care: A pilot study of mobile phone text message appointment reminders

D. Keith McInnes, Beth Ann Petrakis, Allen L. Gifford, Sowmya R. Rao, Thomas K. Houston, Steven M. Asch, Thomas P. O'Toole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objectives. We examined the feasibility of using mobile phone text messaging with homeless veterans to increase their engagement in care and reduce appointment no-shows. Methods.We sent 2 text message reminders to participants (n = 20) before each of their outpatient appointments at an urban Veterans Affairs medical center. Evaluation included pre- and postsurvey questionnaires, open-ended questions, and review of medical records. We estimated costs and savings of large-scale implementation. Results. Participants were satisfied with the text-messaging intervention, had very few technical difficulties, and were interested in continuing. Patientcancelled visits and no-shows trended downward from 53 to 37 and from 31 to 25, respectively. Participants also experienced a statistically significant reduction in emergency department visits, from 15 to 5 (difference of 10; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.2, 17.8; P = .01), and a borderline significant reduction in hospitalizations, from 3 to 0 (difference of 3; 95% CI =-0.4, 6.4; P = .08). Conclusions. Text message reminders are a feasible means of reaching homeless veterans, and users consider it acceptable and useful. Implementation may reduce missed visits and emergency department use, and thus produce substantial cost savings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue numberSUPPL. 4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this

McInnes, D. K., Petrakis, B. A., Gifford, A. L., Rao, S. R., Houston, T. K., Asch, S. M., & O'Toole, T. P. (2014). Retaining homeless veterans in outpatient care: A pilot study of mobile phone text message appointment reminders. American Journal of Public Health, 104(SUPPL. 4).