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Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) 101

Understanding the Impact TCPA Compliance has on Healthcare Providers

The TCPA was originally designed to curb the numerous unwanted marketing calls that were being dialed into households on a daily basis.  People were discouraged and outraged about the growing number of aggressive calls that were dialed into their homes nightly.  Many of these calls were done automatically (through a dialer system or "robocalls") which is the reason the act was passed.

To find out how this law specificly affects healthcare providers, check out "TCPA Essentials for Healthcare".  

TCPA Call Trap

What is the TCPA?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was originally passed into law in 1991.  The TCPA focuses on the restriction of making automated calls with the use of a dialing system and any calls used with a prerecorded message.   The TCPA also has restrictions on the use of SMS text messages and fax machines. The TCPA was updated in 2013 to expand to the restriction of use of automatic dialing equipment that calls both land line and wireless phone numbers.  The TCPA regulations apply to landlines, cellphones, fax machines, business-to-consumer transactions and business-to-business transactions. 

Calling a Household

Since the TCPA was passed, there are new requirements for calling a household. These requirements include:

  • Upon calling a household, the person making the call must provide a name as a point of contact, the company, organization or person being represented, and details of how contact can be made. The contact information must include a name, telephone number or an address where the person may return the call or address the situation.
  • The caller is required to follow the rules of properly displaying a phone number and if available, the name of the company when calling phones that have caller ID.
  • The caller must stick with the guidelines of hours available to call.  No calls can be made prior to 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in the local time zone where the household resides.
  • The caller must obey the rules of the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • A company or organization may not call a landline phone with an automated voice or with the use of a recording.

Calling a Business

When calling a business, the TCPA requires the same rules as calling a household with a few more provisions.  These provisions include the following.

  • A call cannot be made with the use of a type of automated telephone equipment when dialing a hospital, any type of emergency number, doctor’s office, a facility that cares for the elderly including nursing home, hospital patient rooms, or any other type of establishment designed for the care of a patient such as a private adult home. 
  • A call cannot be made to a cell phone that would cause the owner to pay extra for the incoming call. 
  • A dialer cannot send unsolicited advertising pages or other material to a fax machine especially if the machine costs the recipient money.
  • A dialer cannot call a business with a multi-line and tie up more than one of the lines. 

Cost of Violating the TCPA

Violating the TCPA can cost a company time and money.  A consumer can sue an organization or company that violates the act.  The consumer could receive monetary damages for each call, fax or text message.  Some consumers have received anywhere from $500 to $1500 for each offense; the costs for violations can quickly add up.  Paying out for a lawsuit for violating TCPA guidelines can cost an organization a monetary settlement as well as a damaging reputation.  Once an organization is sued for violating TCPA guidelines, other law suits could follow or a negative outlook may be attached to the business.

TCPA Essentials for Healthcare Free Download

Collecting Debts

A company or health organization can avoid violating TCPA guidelines by following some simple rules. 

  • Dial phone numbers manually. Do not use any type of automatic dialing equipment. 
  • Do not use any type of pre-recorded or automatic message.
  • When calling a person, identify yourself, the company you are working for, and the reason for your call.
  • Do not call outside the preset time frame.
  • Ask for prior written consent from the consumer. Remember when a consumer provides a phone number either land line or cellular this is not consent.  The consent must be detailed.
  • If another company is used when collecting debts or calling consumers for other reasons, make certain that the organization follows the TCPA rules. 
    • There is no broad "collection agency exemption" in the TCPA either.
    • Bad debt agencies are desperate to receive backup from the government on modernizing the debt collection process (clearly excluding collection agencies from TCPA) and a concise determination made if a debt collector’s voicemail to a consumer is “communication” as defined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
    • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.
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Topics: Patient Pay, Compliance, TCPA, telephone consumer protection act