This year has been a banner year for legislative re-vamping. And today brings with it another dose of change as the FCC’s modifications to the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act go into effect. The new rules are designed to distance consumers from what The Commission believes is the encroachment of overly intrusive marketing efforts on a consumer’s right to privacy, and specifically address rising concern about pre-recorded telemarking calls and the use of auto-dialers.

The good news is that the rules, which apply to residential and wireless lines, as well as text messaging, concern telemarketing messages, and not the types of messaging used in a practice marketing solution like RevenueWell. Treatment plan notifications, appointment confirmations and other types of messaging sent via practice management software are deemed by the FCC to be “health care messaging,” or, at the very least “informational messaging,” and both have been exempted from the new rules.

The reason for this is simple, and that reason is primarily HIPAA. According to the viewpoint of the FCC, because the healthcare industry has efficient and thorough oversight in HIPAA, new regulation for already agreed-upon statues would be counterproductive. Specifically, the FCC found “HIPAA’s existing protections … already safeguard consumer privacy, and the FCC therefore does not need to subject these calls to its consent, identification, opt-out, and abandoned call rules” (77 FR 34240).

The language goes on to state in § 64.1200, paragraph (a): No person or entity may initiate any telephone call to any residential line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express written consent of the called party, unless the call; (v) Delivers a “health care” message made by, or on behalf of, a “covered entity” or its “business associate,” as those terms are defined in the HIPAA Privacy Rule, 45 CFR 160.103. (77 FR 34247)

Lastly, with regard to a purely “informational” calls (even when an autodialer is used, or a pre-recorded message sent), The Commission repeatedly asserts that with these calls as well, it “does not require prior express written consent for autodialed or prerecorded informational, non-telemarketing calls to wireless numbers or for informational, non-telemarketing prerecorded calls to residential lines” (77 FR 34243).

The FCC believes these added safeguards will serve to protect the privacy of every consumer and secure them from invasive calling methods designed to sell a product or service. Since RevenueWell does not distribute this type of messaging on behalf of its practice clients, these new rules have no effect on your patient communication efforts.

By Alex Nozdrin