FCC Rules on Cell Phone Billing Calls

A July 10, 2015 order from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calls for changes in how dental offices place cell phone calls. No one likes the annoying robocalls or the telemarketers and the hang up calls but no one wants to get collection calls or texts on their cell phones either and so the law has been interpreted to ensure dental practices are in compliance with the law.

This law applies to all healthcare business and now requires a consent form be signed prior to calling or texting a patient’s cell phone.  The healthcare exemption applies only if the communication: (according to the California Dental Association’s latest article from 8-25-2015):   http://www.cda.org/news-events/fcc-dentists-must-get-consent-to-make-billing-calls

  • Is sent only to the cellphone number provided by the patient to the health care provider;
  • States the name and contact information of the health care provider (information must be at the beginning of a voice call);
  • Does not include telemarketing, solicitation, advertising, billing or financial content (including insurance information requests);
  • Complies with the HIPAA Privacy Rule; and
  • Is short (one minute or less for voice calls and 160 characters or less for text messages).

A health care provider must:

  • Limit communication to one per day and three per week for each individual;
  • Provide individuals with a simple method to opt out of receiving communications; and
  • Immediately honor the opt-out requests.

What you should do to take action now is to:

  • Review procedures to determine if the practice uses patient cellphone numbers for communications related to dental benefits, financial arrangements or marketing/solicitation. Review patient forms to determine if required consents, obtained after Oct. 16, 2013 (effective date of original rule), are included. Update forms as needed.
  • Ensure that the practice’s HIPAA business associates who communicate on behalf of the practice are in compliance with TCPA rules.  This would include dental billing services or marketing and recall services you are using to contact patients.
  • If patients list their cell phone number as a work or home phone number that they sign a release such as the following obtained from the CDA(California Dental Association:

*❑ I consent to the dental practice using my cell phone number to (choose one or both) call or text regarding appointments and to call regarding treatment, insurance, and my account.  I understand that I can withdraw my consent at any time. My cell phone number is (include area code) __________________________________     _______ (initial)


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