The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is a law that applies to original creditors, such as medical providers, and third parties, such as collection agencies. “The TCPA regulates the use of certain technology when placing calls to consumers.” Baisden v. Credit Adjustments, Inc., 813 F. 3d 338, 341-342 (6th Cir. 2016). “It makes it unlawful for any person to place a call ‘using any automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial pre-recorded voice’ to a cell phone number without obtaining the ‘prior consent of the called party.”’ Id. at 342(quoting 47 U.S.C. §227(b)(1)(A)(iii)).
An automatic telephone dialing system is any telephone system that interacts with callers without input from a human other than the caller. Automatic telephone dialing systems can save medical providers time and money when they’re used to call patients to remind them of their upcoming appointments. Automatic telephone dialing systems are also frequently used in debt collection.
In the recent case of Baisden v. Credit Adjustments, Inc., the plaintiffs received medical care at Mount Carmel Hospital (Mount Carmel) in Columbus, Ohio. 813 F. 3d 338, 340 (6th Cir. 2016). As part of the admission process, the plaintiffs executed a consent agreement whereby Mount Carmel could use the information provided for billing and payment of medical services.
As is common in hospitals and surgical centers, an outside physicians’ group, Consultant Anesthesiologists (Consultant), provided anesthesia and/or other related medical services to Mount Carmel’s patients. When the plaintiffs failed to pay their anesthesia bills, Consultant transferred the accounts to Credit Adjustments, a collection agency, which contacted the plaintiffs utilizing an “automatic telephone dialing system” and an “artificial prerecorded voice” regarding their outstanding medical debt.
The plaintiffs then filed a class action lawsuit against Credit Adjustments, alleging that Credit Adjustments violated the TCPA by contacting the plaintiffs utilizing an “automatic telephone dialing system” and an “artificial prerecorded voice” without their express consent.
The federal district court ruled in favor of Credit Adjustments, finding that the plaintiffs gave their express consent to be contacted about their outstanding medical debt and that Credit Adjustments did not violate the TCPA. Plaintiff appealed and the federal appeals court agreed with the federal district court, holding that “the provision of a cell phone number to a hospital that then provides that cell phone number to an affiliated physicians’ group that provided medical services to a consumer arising out of the same occurrence can constitute “prior express consent” under the TCPA.”
As very few consumers have access land lines, medical providers, as part of their standard practices, should require patients to sign a consent form authorizing the medical providers and/or any entities providing services on their behalf, to contact patients via their cellular phones in any manner they deem necessary. Not only do consent forms save medical providers, physicians groups, and/or outside collection agencies time and money, but they also prevent frivolous TCPA lawsuits from being filed.
In the event a TCPA lawsuit is filed, a consent form in the file will prevent a consumer from prevailing, saving thousands of dollars in associated legal fees and costs. This should be standard practice for all medical providers. We highly recommend that strategy.
Founded in 1997, Gill Law Firm represents small, medium and large corporations in commercial debt recovery, small business and nonprofit startups throughout the state of Florida. To find out how the firm may help your company, please contact A. Wayne Gill, Esq. via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (561) 454-0301.