FCC Holds Inaugural Hospital Robocall Protection Group Meeting


Group will issue best practices required by the TRACED Act this year.

8/3/2020 12:30

The Federal Communications Commission’s Hospital Robocall Protection Group met in July for its first meeting and discussion on pending best practices to help health care providers manage unlawful robocalls as well as call blocking and labeling, caller ID authentication and the FCC’s robocall enforcement efforts.

“I am all too familiar with the negative impact robocalls have had on health care organizations and their ability to effectively operate and provide care to patients,” said Dave Summitt, chief information security officer of Moffitt Cancer Center and chairman of the HRPG.

Through the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, Congress asked the group to tackle unlawful robocalls and issue best practices within about six months, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in his opening remarks.

The group’s three priorities, according to Pai, are to determine:

  • How voice service providers and other entities can better combat unlawful robocalls made to hospitals.
  • How hospitals can better protect themselves from such calls, including by using unlawful robocall mitigation techniques.
  • How the federal government and state governments can help combat these calls.

“These robocalls post significant risks to and pose significant costs on medical professionals and facilities that rely on robust, ready and resilient voice services to do their job and to help address health crises in their communities every single day,” Pai said.

Summitt said unlawful robocalls are a “technology epidemic” for every critical infrastructure in the U.S., including health care providers.

“Unsolicited, fraudulent and malicious telephone calls are much more than just a nuisance or annoyance. They are disruptive and potentially dangerous or life threatening,” he said. “Along with all good technology comes the method of bad actors taking advantage of good technology.”

From a health care perspective, Summitt reported three issues/areas of concern:

  • Caller ID showed calls coming into Moffitt Cancer Center as from its own organization.
  • Calls placed to individuals across the state and U.S. using the Moffitt Cancer Center name as the calling number.
  • Calls to specific individuals inside Moffit’s organization, mainly care providers, to obtain confidential information to carry out further activity.

The care center received over 6,600 calls matching these three criteria.

Additionally, Jerusha Burnett, attorney advisor, FCC Consumer Policy Division, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, discussed the FCC’s rules on call blocking.

“The commission has also shown it wants to exercise caution in call blocking—there are important calls that we don’t want to be blocked, particularly if the recipient isn’t aware that these calls could be blocked,” she said. “In the medical context, these could include things like appointment reminders to ensure patients get the care they need. But this could also be scam calls to a medical provider from a phony patient.”

The FCC voted 5-0 July 16 to adopt an order on call blocking and labeling that includes two safe harbors for voice service providers and some protections for legitimate calls, ACA International previously reported. ACA is awaiting the release of the final order, but the contents of it were discussed in an open hearing and an FCC press release, providing insight into changes that were made from the draft.

A request for comment on Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls was posted on the Federal Register July 31 and comments are due on or before Aug. 31, 2020. Read more from ACA here.

Now that the HPRG is established, it must issue best practices this year regarding how service providers can combat unlawful robocalls made to hospitals, how hospitals can better protect themselves from such calls, and how federal and state governments can help combat these calls, ACA International previously reported.

As required by the TRACED Act, the group includes a member from the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission, plus an equal number of representatives from voice service providers that serve hospitals; companies that focus on mitigating unlawful robocalls; consumer advocacy organizations; providers of one-way voice over internet protocol services; hospitals; and state government officials focused on combating unlawful robocalls.

Additional TRACED Act deadlines include:

  • Dec. 24, 2020: The Hospital Robocall Protection Group must issue best practices regarding to how service providers can combat unlawful robocalls made to hospitals, how hospitals can better protect themselves, and how federal and state governments can help combat these calls.
  • Dec. 30, 2020: This is the deadline for multiple requirements, including a report to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Commerce Committee on analysis of the extent to which providers have implemented call authentication frameworks and assessment of the efficacy of call authentication frameworks.
  • June 23, 2021: Conclude a proceeding to assess the extent to which the voluntary adoption of the Hospital Robocall Protection Group’s suggested best practices can be facilitated to protect hospitals and other institutions.
  • June 30, 2021: The FCC must require IP networks to implement STIR/SHAKEN and non-IP networks to take “reasonable measures to implement effective call authentication framework.”

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