Among many other technologies, mobile delivery platforms are increasingly becoming a common form of communicating vital information about appointments, billing and other issues with patients. As these technologies become more prevalent, the odds of legal exposure under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) also increase. Hence, knowing some TCPA basics can assist healthcare companies in potentially steering clear of legal issues.

The TCPA was originally devised as a way to protect consumer privacy and fight telemarketers. However, its reach has since broadened considerably. Today, most companies that contact consumers through means such as a phone, including healthcare companies, can face substantial liability under the TCPA. A company may be slapped with a $500 fine for each text that violates the TCPA. This also includes faxes, which carry major penalties, including up to $1,500 per fax.

Though they are becoming increasingly archaic, the TCPA will still enact a fine if calls are made to residential landlines using a prerecorded or artificial voice without prior written consent. Cell phone contact, including via an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) is also off-limits unless there is express consent of the called party. There are, however, exceptions to this such as an emergency call. Before making calls using an automated dialing system or one of these artificial voices, a healthcare company should consider factors such as the message type, the type of phone being called, and of course, whether a patient has consented.

Despite being phased out in favor of modern forms such as email, fax machines are commonplace in healthcare. To cut down on fax ads, the TCPA was tweaked during the early 2000s to include the Junk Fax Prevention Act (JFPA), which prohibits using a fax, a computer, or other devices to send unsolicited ads promoting services or goods. The JFPA does not apply, however, to faxes that do not fall under the category of ads. Additionally, a sender is not liable if the recipient has given prior permission or if there is an established business relationship between the sender and the recipient. The JFPA does have several requirements that must be followed.

This update is by Medical Accounts Systems, a full-service healthcare revenue cycle management company providing a number of services including insurance follow up and managed care disputes, physician reimbursement, extended business office services, and more. For additional information on our services or for any questions you may have on topics such as medical payment systems, please call 877-759-6315.