40% more diabetes patients are getting treated at a Jakarta clinic thanks to an SMS appointment and reminder service, the city’s health chief said.

Number of “people who are seeking routine treatment has reached 75 percent [of diabetes patients]”, said Dr Koesmedi Priharto, Head of Jakarta’s Health Office, according to data from December 2015.

Since 2014, the government has piloted an SMS service for diabetes patients visiting the government’s clinic in Cenkareng area of Jakarta.

Patients can make appointments with doctors, and get reminded of planned visits via text messages. The clinic also sends them information on health activities by SMS.

“Now they feel we give them more attention so they are more willing to come and get cured”, Dr Priharto said. Before the SMS service was introduced, only a third of diabetes patients in the area made regular visits to the clinic.

The SMS appointments have also meant that patients don’t have to queue in advance to see the doctor. There was no formal appointment system at the clinic earlier, and patients queued from 4am to get an appointment when the clinic opens at 7:30am, he said.

But doctors are not showing up on time for work, making the appointment system less efficient. This is the biggest challenge for this project, Dr Priharto said. “If the doctor or nurse doesn’t come on time, the system doesn’t function well.”

Diabetes is one of the most common ailments in Jakarta, and has become chronic problem in the city. “We chose diabetes mellitus because we think the disease is not easy to cure,” Dr Priharto said.

The SMS service will be expanded to all 44 government clinics in Jakarta at the end of this year, he said, and will be available to patients of other diseases.