Why providers can and should text patients: how to keep your patient messaging TCPA-compliant

Why providers can and should text patients: how to keep your patient messaging TCPA-compliant

What you need to know to keep your calls and texts FCC-compliant

The TCPA—Protecting Consumers from Unwanted Messages

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA, was passed in 1991 in an attempt to protect consumers from harassing phone calls. It required businesses to get prior consent from consumers before communicating with them via an auto-dialer or pre-recorded call. Since the ‘90s, the TCPA has been updated to require businesses to get consent for text messages sent to consumers.

The TCPA Differentiates between landline and wireless communications:

Calling a landline  Calling or texting a cellphone
Businesses must get prior express
consent to contact a consumer via an
auto-dialer or pre-recorded message
with marketing-related content.
Businesses must get prior express consent
to contact a consumer via an auto-dialer or
pre-recorded message with any content.
Written consent is required for marketing content.

Healthcare-specific Exemptions

Because of the value of the communication healthcare providers send their patients, the FCC has made specific exemptions for healthcare settings. If a patient shares his or her contact information with a provider, that act constitutes sufficient consent for certain types of health-related, timely communication. Providers can call or text patients about:

  • Appointment and exam confirmations and reminders
  • Wellness checkups
  • Lab results
  • Prescription notifications
  • Home healthcare instructions
  • Hospital pre-registration instructions
  • Pre-operative instructions
  • Post-discharge follow-up

Examples of allowed, health-related messages:

What the Healthcare-specific Exemptions Do Not Include

Notice that the list above does not include certain types of communications you may wish to send your patients. Marketing-related messages, payment notifications, and other updates that don’t pertain to a particular patient’s access to care or care plan are not permitted unless you receive express, written consent from the patient to receive those types of communications.

Examples of messages that are not allowed without express, written consent:

Additional TCPA Restrictions

Make sure your organization is following other relevant TCPA regulations. Stay mindful of when you’re contacting patients, how often, and what type of information you’re sending them.

  • Only use the phone number provided by the patient.
  • Each message must include the name and contact information of the healthcare organization.
  • Send messages between 9am and 9pm in your patient’s time zone.
  • Keep it concise—generally 160 characters of less for text and a minute of less for voice calls.
  • Limit communications to one message per day, up to a maximum of three voice calls or texts combined per week.
  • Make sure patients have an easy and immediate way to opt-out of future messages
  • Follow HIPAA regulations—all protected health information (PHI) must be communicated securely. That means certain communications should not be sent via text message or left over voicemail.

The TCPA is an important law that helps protects us all from being overwhelmed by thousands of companies trying to win our business. Fortunately it allows for flexibility in the healthcare space as it relates to patient care, but healthcare organizations must be conscious of the line between care-related messages and marketing or billing-related messages. Doing so can not only help you avoid costly penalties, it helps build trust in the provider-patient relationship, ultimately supporting patient health and the health of your organization.

*This document is designed to provide general information. For specific legal advice, please consult a legal professional.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *