The COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of offices and a shift towards remote everything. We began to attend virtual meetings and even virtual playdates and weddings. We even attended virtual doctor’s appointments. Although the area of telehealth was not new, it was not nearly as large a segment of the healthcare industry prior to the pandemic. It has grown immensely as a result of a jump in demand from patients.
With this spike in demand, telehealth providers have started customizing software and building their market. While doing this is beneficial for the medical practice and patients, it can also come up against various regulations, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
The TCPA is a federal law passed by lawmakers to address concerns of excessive robot calls from marketers. Although there is an exception for contact about healthcare, it comes with some limitations.
The healthcare message exception may not be as broad as you think.
If you have done some research into this law, you likely stumbled on the healthcare message exception. In general, contact about important health information is excepted from this law. Examples include appointment reminders and prescription notifications.
Even if your message meets this definition, the federal government could still claim your practice is in violation of the TCPA. In addition to the message itself qualifying as important health information, the practice must also refrain from sending more than three messages per patient per week and abide by HIPAA. Additional requirements exist if the material is marketing in nature.
Bonus: What if the feds accuse my practice of a TCPA violation?
A violation can result in steep financial penalties. Those who are ironing out their marketing plans within the telehealth industry are wise to conduct internal audits to help better ensure their processes are in line with applicable regulations.