You may have heard that several changes to the Federal Communications Commission Regulations (FCC Regulations) implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) went into effect on October 16th, and you may be wondering how these changes affect the voice and text reminders that Sesame sends on your behalf. As a bit of background, the TCPA restricts the use of telephone solicitations, particularly those made by automated voice and texting systems. Its primary purpose is to ensure telemarketers cannot make unwanted calls or send unwanted texts to consumers. The TCPA mandates that telemarketers must obtain prior express written consent from consumers to “robo-call” or text them; it is this mandate that has raised some concerns in the medical and dental community about patient reminder systems.
That said, please rest assured: the revised FCC Regulations do not prevent Sesame from continuing to send reminders to your patients. The Sesame reminder system operates within the specific guidelines set forth in the TCPA for HIPAA-covered entities, which means you – and we – do not have to have prior written consent from your patients for Sesame to send voice and text reminders to them. The simple act of a patient providing the numbers to your office is considered sufficient consent for you, and Sesame, to use those numbers. And, as you know, you can use your Sesame dashboard to disable reminders for any patients who don’t want to receive calls or texts. Patients can also log into the Sesame patient portal and enable or disable reminders for any phone number they provide. All of this makes it easy for a patient to choose to receive reminders or not – neither you nor Sesame wants to bother patients with unwanted calls or texts, of course. These features enable Sesame to fulfill both the letter and the spirit of the TCPA.
Going forward, we all believe patients should be as informed as possible about how your office and Sesame will communicate with them. Many of our Members already get specific written consent from patients to send health-related messages through the Sesame reminder system, their own office systems and other products. Although it is not required by the TCPA or by the HIPAA rules to have written permission on-file for such communications, it is the safest approach given the ever-changing landscape of government regulations. If you have any questions about how the new Regulations apply in your circumstances, you should consult an attorney.