Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of fining non-attendance at public hospitals: a randomised controlled trial from Danish outpatient clinics

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OBJECTIVES: Fines have been proposed as means for reducing non-attendance in healthcare. The empirical evidence of the effect of fines is however limited. The objective of this study is to investigate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of fining non-attendance at outpatient clinics.

DESIGN, PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: 1:1 randomised controlled trial of appointments for an outpatient clinic, posted to Danish addresses, between 1 May 2015 and 30 November 2015. Only first appointment for users was included. Healthcare professionals and investigators were masked.

INTERVENTION: A fine of DKK250 (€34) was issued for non-attendance. Users were informed about the fine in case of non-attendance by the appointment letter, and were able to reschedule or cancel until the appointment. A central administration office administered the fine system.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The main outcome measures were non-attendance of non-cancelled appointments, fine policy administration costs, net of productivity consequences and probability of fining non-attendance being cost-effective over no fining for a range of hypothetical values of reduced non-attendance.

RESULTS: All of the 6746 appointments included were analysed. Of the 3333 appointments randomised to the fine policy, 130 (5%) of non-cancelled appointments were unattended, and of the 3413 appointments randomised to no-fine policy, 131 (5%) were unattended. The cost per appointment of non-attendance was estimated at DKK 56 (SE 5) in the fine group and DKK47 (SE 4) in the no-fine group, leading to a non-statistically significant difference of DKK10 (95% CI -9 to 22) per appointment attributable to the fine policy. The probability of cost-effectiveness remained around 50%, irrespective of increased values of reduced non-attendance or various alternative assumptions used for sensitivity analyses.

CONCLUSIONS: At a baseline level of around 5%, fining non-attendance does not seem to further reduce non-attendance. Future studies should focus on other means for reduction of non-attendance such as nudging or negative reinforcement.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere019969
JournalBMJ Open
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2018

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