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Patient non-attendance is an expensive and persistent problem worldwide with rates between 5–39% reported in the literature. The objective of the study was to assess whether there is a higher incidence of non-attendance in a hospital-based pain clinic during the period of the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh-Hashanah to Sukkot) and whether this is further compounded by other factors, such as demographic characteristics and previous visits to the clinic.
Records were taken from the Lowenstein Rehabilitation Hospital appointment scheduling system. Data was gathered from two time-periods: High-Holidays and Control for each year, over a total of 6 years 2008–2013. Non-attendance was analyzed by period, by age, by gender and by previous visits to the clinic.
In the entire population studied (666 distinct records), the non-attendance rate was higher during the High-Holidays as compared to the Control period (32 vs. 24.1%; p = 0.030). Non-attendance rates were significantly higher during the Holidays among repeating patients (28.6 vs. 14.8%; p = 0.002) and among women (34.6 vs. 20.7%; p = 0.004).
Our data suggest that non-attendance is elevated during the High-Holidays in specific groups of patients, namely, repeating patients and women. Despite no direct inquiry into the reasons for non-attendance, we speculate that the elevated well-being and familial support during the holidays contribute to the patients’ ability to cope with persistent pain and possibly directly reduce the amount of pain, leading to patients missing their pain clinic appointments.
Our results, provided they can be corroborated by larger-scale studies, can assist in scheduling policy adjustments such as avoidance of appointments during the High-holidays for specific patient populations and more rigorous reminder efforts during these times of the year that may lead to reduction in overall non-attendance rates in the pain clinic. Further, our data provide an impetus for further studies of non-attendance patterns among pain clinic patients, in order to acquire a better understanding of the reasons for non-attendance and develop strategies to reduce it and thus contribute to the continuous improvement of the Israeli health systems as well as others worldwide.