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How Will New Phone Technology Designed to Block Nuisance Calls Affect Provider Collection Efforts?

The second largest mobile cell phone provider, AT&T, has released a new service called “AT&T Call Protect.”  The press release issued concerning the free service says that it “gives eligible AT&T wireless customers…more control over unwanted calls on their smartphones.”  They also claim their service “harnesses the power of the AT&T network to give customers automatic fraud blocking and suspected spam call warnings.”

AT&T says that customers can sign up for this service through their account.  AT&T is also in the midst of releasing a new app “AT&T Call Protect;” an app that is designed to provide customers with the ability to block calls temporarily prior to reaching the customers phone and also gives “spam warnings” to customers regarding some incoming calls.

Senior VP of Device & Network Services Marketing, Jeff Bradley said “nuisance calls are an industry-wide problem that unfortunately affects many people.”  He also added “we’ve listened to our customers and know they want a network that provides tools to proactively assist in blocking nuisance calls.  AT&T Call Protect…will help put more customers in control of the calls they receive.”

This kind of technology does appear to be adverse for those working with accounts receivable; and will likely make it more difficult to contact patients if those contacting them have been identified as a “nuisance” (whether the identification comes from the patient themselves or by AT&T) no matter how legitimate and appropriate the call may actually be.  It’s worth noting that both Sprint and Charter Communications are already offering very similar products.

Those working specifically within the realm of healthcare collections will continue to receiving challenges in communicating with patients.  In fact, the reality is that such challenges will be even greater in the future as more communication companies equip consumers with the ability to block calls from specific, targeted telephone numbers.  Healthcare collectors will need to pay even greater attention to tracking data related to calling to decipher which numbers are and which no longer are effective.

Recently the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been looking at the issue of robocalls.  Robocalls are the top source of complaints; proving to be a plague to consumers according to the FCC.  Sadly though, legitimate business calls from medical collectors have been and will continue to be lumped together with illegitimate robocallers; creating a problem within the industry.

Tom Wheeler, the FCC Chairman will be stepping down in January which has the potential of changing the direction the FCC is moving when his replacement begins his or her tenure.  This change could ultimately affect the creation of federal policy regarding robocalls and the collection industry as a whole.  Many are hopeful that the collection industry will find a way to track data so as to create documentation regarding the impact of these new technologies.

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