The rules for calling or texting patients are complex. The legality of a call or text depends on some things you can control, like the reason for the calling or text, and potentially some things you can’t control, like whether or not the patient’s cell phone plan charges for that call or text. Even for a healthcare provider or payer, it is illegal to text a patient or insured’s cell phone without consent. However, the FCC granted some exemptions to healthcare providers around what constitutes consent. Generally, the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) treats texting a cell phone the same way it treats auto-dialing (dialing a phone with a robo-dialer). Either texting a cell phone or auto-dialing a cell phone are the same and neither is allowed unless you already have the owner’s consent.
Healthcare providers sending a medically specific communication to a patient-provided phone number are granted “consent” but not for all purposes and only if the patient hasn’t opted out of communications and only as long as the phone number provided still belongs to that patient. There are also some very confusing rules around whether or not the patient’s cell phone plan is charged for those texts that some believe can also invalidate the consumer’s consent. (The confusion around this particular issue will likely end up back in the courts.) Also, if you have permission and call or text any phone and the owner tells you to stop, you need to stop. This is called consent “revocation”. The continued need to check that consent is still valid and that the patient still has the same phone number are hard enough, but if a large company with multiple divisions or calling systems is making the call, the requirements to manage consent revocation and cell phone reassignment can be a bit of a nightmare.
The instruction to stop doesn’t just apply to one department: It applies to your entire company. If any department in your company is told to stop calling, ALL departments in your company need to stop calling and texting. US Consumers have been complaining (link below) so much to the Federal Communication Commission, the FCC, about auto-dialed calls and unsolicited texts that they have begun more enforcement actions. https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/categories/200134980-Phone
The larger your organization, the harder it will be to manage all of this consumer preference and compliance data. Large companies often have multiple outreach systems, like dialers or even manual call centers that often don’t interact and sometimes don’t even know about each other. Some companies are so large it is difficult to know for certain how many different call centers or dialer systems they use for patient or insured outreach. The bad news is that the FCC doesn’t care if it’s difficult to manage this information and coordinate between multiple, disparate systems. The good news is that healthcare organizations don’t have to assess the risks and find good solutions all on their own.
For years PacificEast, our parent company, has been helping healthcare companies clean and enhance their outreach data. Working with healthcare consumer data, either PHI or PII, is a big investment for any company. Because of the sensitivity of this kind of information, we spend countless hours on security and HIPAA audits; thousands upon thousands of dollars on infrastructure and compliance training. Every employee goes through mandatory HIPAA training. We also manage all those mandatory Business Associate Agreements (BAA) with all of our subcontractors and with all of our customers. It’s not easy but it is an important investment for us. It’s an investment you may want to utilize to help you manage the consumer preference data that, especially for larger healthcare companies is becoming an increasingly complex set of silos with different needs, different rules, different internal owners and different maintenance regimes.
You are the experts in providing healthcare services. We are the experts in managing patient communication preferences and TCPA compliance.
Contact us today for a free telephone consultation at 844-4IDICIA (844-443-4242)