Text Your Patients and Stay TCPA Compliant
It’s clear that when communicating with patients, text is king. But when you start texting your patients, it’s as important as ever to protect the privacy and rights of your patients. No one wants to get spammed—or to be a spammer. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) helps phone users to have more control over what messages come through on their phone. And TCPA is not just guidelines—it is laws with serious fines per violation penalty. The fines are per text, at $500-$1500 per message sent. So if you send 3000 messages to people who have opted out, the fines would be enormous. Because of your new use of the technology, you likely are unsure how to stay TCPA compliant.
The rules are great for consumers, but may be complicated to understand—especially since some healthcare messages are exempt from the rules. Let’s take a look at a few of the top things to keep in mind when your office adopts a text communication plan to reach people where they are at—on their smartphones!
For most businesses, written consent must be obtained before you can send a message. This shows a consumer opted in and wants to receive the message. For health-related messages, though, no consent is necessary.
If you have a patient’s phone number, you can send them the following healthcare-related messages (among others):
- Appointment reminders
- Confirmation messages
- Wellness checkups
- Post-operative instructions
- Post-discharge information
- Lab results
- Prescriptions notifications
- Home healthcare instruction
So before sending health and care-related messages, you do not need written consent. (Opt out rules do apply—see below for more information about a patient opting out.)
However, not all messages from a practice fall under the exemption. For the following, you DO need to obtain written consent:
- Advertisements for new services
- Solicitations to events
- Special offers
- Accounting, billing, or collection messages
So a message that says, “Check out a discount on this new service we are offering,” requires a written consent before you send the message. To get this consent, simply ask in patient forms, intake forms, etc. for permission.
Opt out messages.
The TCPA also requires that patients can “Opt Out” at any time from your messages. This means that if they say, “Stop sending messages,” you have to stop—even with healthcare-related messages. Messages that fall into the “Marketing Messages” categories must have clear and obvious notice about how to decline to receive future messages. It’s usually best to include “Reply STOP to opt out” in all text messages.
The two main takeaways are:
- Get written consent from patients before sending them messages—this way you are covered.
- Include easy “opt out” messaging in marketing messages.
As text industry pioneers and with a focus on healthcare, Zingit is very aware of HIPAA compliance as well as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Read more about HIPAA and TCPA compliance in our white paper.