Tag Archives: Consumer

FCC Releases Guidance on Autodialing and Pre-Recorded Voice Calls to Wireless Phone Numbers

This past July, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released a ruling (the “Ruling”) interpreting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TPCA”) restrictions on certain communications to wireless telephone numbers. The Ruling significantly restricts business’ ability to use auto-dialers and artificial / prerecorded voices for contacting wireless telephone numbers, including via text message (“automated contact system ”), prior to obtaining customer consent. Fortunately for the many health care providers who rely on this type of technology for important patient correspondence such as appointment reminders, the FCC has provided a significant exception for providers’ automated contact systems that meet certain criteria set forth in the Ruling. While the criteria are not overly burdensome, they are numerous and specific, so health care providers with automated contact systems should review them carefully to ensure ongoing compliance with the TPCA.

Following the Ruling, health care providers with automated contact systems must either obtain patient consent prior to using automated contact systems, or be sure that their automated contact system comply with the Ruling. Generally, to be exempt from obtaining prior express consent from patients calls to wireless numbers using automated contact systems:

  • must not be charged to patient-recipients;
  • must be for specific, health-related purposes;
  • must include easy opt-out options; and
  • are subject to volume and brevity restrictions.

The Ruling describes in greater detail the steps that health care providers must take to meet the above standards.

The FCC ruling is available here. Contact a member of the Benesch team if you have any questions about your automatic contact system after the FCC’s recent ruling.

What Makes A Five Star Hospital?

The Affordable Care Act includes many provisions aimed at improving the quality of care provided by different types of health care professionals and providers. Along these lines, the ACA expands the types of facilities and providers for which quality data will be publically available.  The Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services was therefore directed to develop a Hospital Compare website (amongst other similar sites such as Physician Compare and Nursing Home Compare) that would allow Medicare enrollees to compare scientifically sound measures of physician quality and patient experience.

In accordance with these directives, on April 16, 2015 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released the first ever Hospital Compare Star Ratings on its public information website.  The site is intended to make it easier for consumers to choose a hospital and understand the quality of care they deliver.  The data set from the website contains hospital-specific quality data for over 4,500 hospitals nationwide.  The ratings are based on the 11 publicly reported measures in the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (“HCAHPS”) survey, which assesses patient experiences.

The star ratings allow for an easy comparison using a five-star scale, with more stars indicating better quality care.  The quality data on Hospital Compare includes clinical process of care, patient outcomes and patient experience of care measures.  The national rankings are based on hospitals’ performance on the clinical process of care measures and a national survey of patients’ experience of care.  The hospitals’ ranks are combined into an overall, composite performance ranking, with process of care measures contributing 70% and patient experience of care measuring 30%.

However, just 251 out of 3,553 hospitals received the highest score in the rating system based on the experiences of patients who were admitted between July 2013 and June 2014.  Hospitals had an opportunity to preview the ratings in the fall and many have already expressed concern.  Hospitals question the methodology and whether the ratings reflect meaningful reflections of performance.  They also assert that the ratings are oversimplifying the hospital’s performance to a single score.

Notably, the patient experience star ratings are only based on the information on quality of care that is reported by patients.  The surveys are provided to a random sampling of patients within two days after discharge from a hospital and must be completed within 42 days.  Further, positive results may mean that the hospital is delivering good care.  However, these results are not taking into account other factors such as timely and efficient care and results or outcomes of care measures.  Moreover, the results places substantial reliance on patient review, which is just one measurement of hospital quality.  Lastly, if one does not review Hospital Compare extensively, information aside from the star ratings may easily be overlooked.  For example, the complete results for each HCAHPS measure can be found in the “Survey of Patients’ experiences” section.

On the other hand, supporters of Hospital Compare argue that while it’s not a perfect measurement system, it creates a healthy competition among hospitals.

For more information on Hospital Compare, other CMS initiatives or related issues, please feel free to contact Daniel Meier or any member of our health care practice group for a further discussion.

New York Passes The Family Health Care Decisions Act

On February 24, 2010, the Senate of the State of New York passed (S.3164/A.7729), The Family Health Care Decisions Act (the “FHCDA”). The New York Assembly passed the bill in January.  This important piece of legislation allowing for surrogates to make health care decisions in certain circumstances has been in the works since 1993.  NY Governor David A. Paterson applauded the passage of the FHCDA.

Consumers and health care providers have historically had to rely on a patchwork of common law decisions and the Health Care Proxy and Do-Not-Resuscitate laws to address personal health care decisions. New York common law (in a line of well know court decisions) provides that life-sustaining treatment cannot be withdrawn or withheld, unless clear and convincing evidence of the patient’s wishes can be produced. An advance directive could serve as that evidence but way too often patients have not completed one when they were competent.

The FHCDA now provides a framework for health care decisions to be made by surrogates. By doing so, it reduces the uncertainty and need for judicial determination in many situations in which current law did not provide a clear way for a health care decision to be made for an incompetent patient.

You can find a copy of (S.3164/A.7729), The Family Health Care Decisions Act at http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&bn=A07729%09%09&Summary=Y&Actions=Y&Votes=Y&Memo=Y&Text=Y