Stopping robocalls: Finding the right mix of legislation and innovation
As published in Modern Healthcare's 117th Congress Special Report, Advancing Access and Affordability, October 2021.
Congress, local legislators, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have made combatting unlawful robocalls and malicious caller ID spoofing a top consumer protection priority, but fraudsters are still finding ways to beat the system.
In 2020, U.S. consumers received 45.9 billion robocalls and lost $10 billion to fraudulent phone scams. What’s worse is that many of these calls used healthcare concerns to defraud their victims. Some were COVID-19 related—including calls about contact tracing, testing, and vaccines—but others used Medicare, healthcare enrollment and misinformation in general to take advantage of consumers. Robocalls are no longer just a financial threat; they are eroding trust in our healthcare system and actively worsening the health and safety of the U.S. public.
Healthcare providers are already feeling the impact. According to a recent Neustar sponsored Omdia survey, 78% of healthcare providers stated that the phone is their most important communications channel, but nearly 90% of their patients don’t answer because they’re not sure who is calling or why.
Unanswered calls have a detrimental impact on everyone: businesses lose revenues (55% of healthcare providers we surveyed said they had a revenue loss of at least 10% as a result of call blocking or tagging) and consumers’ negative call experiences lead them to stop answering the phone altogether.
Unless we act, hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed with inbound robocalls, bad actors will spoof their numbers to collect personal information, and healthcare providers across the nation will be unable to reach patients—even just to schedule an appointment. The success of telehealth, which was being utilized by 79% of hospitals as of last spring, hinges on the ability to reach patients by phone.
The FCC mandated that Communications Service Providers (CSPs) implement STIR/SHAKEN call authentication by June 2021. Coupled with other robocall mitigation solutions, this will significantly reduce the effectiveness of fraudulent robocalls. The potential of calls being blocked from carriers that have not been registered in the FCC’s Robocall Mitigation Database (RMDB) will drive further adoption from enterprises, making it even harder for fraudsters.
But regulation by itself won’t solve this issue. We need a balance between legislation and action from both Communications Service Providers (CSPs) and enterprises to effectively resecure the voice channel. As a leading provider of authentication and verification services domestically and internationally, Neustar has played an integral role in the governance structure for the Calling Number Verification Service to lessen illegal robocalling and call spoofing. We understand this issue better than anyone and are working with regulators and healthcare providers to address the problem.
Neustar provides resources, tools and solutions to healthcare providers so that they can effectively navigate these new regulations, helping them to better protect both their brand and their consumers. This is critical, since providers that don’t change their practices to accommodate new regulations will find that their legitimate outbound calls are blocked or marked as a result of analytics programs or new protocols. Neustar can help navigate this new reality while keeping fraudsters at bay.
Adopting innovative solutions.
While regulations have provided technical and legislative mandates to provide foundational trust in phone calls, the market has responded with solutions that go beyond. One Neustar approach that is appealing to both carriers and enterprises is the use of branded calling. Branded calling lets enterprises present their business name, location, logo, images, social media information and purpose on a mobile phone display for every call.
We’re already seeing it make a significant difference for healthcare providers. When the Virginia Department of Health was unable to get its critical outreach calls answered regarding COVID-19, it implemented Branded Call Display for outbound calls. This enabled it to reassure patients that the incoming call was legitimate, thanks to the Virginia Department of Health logo that popped up with each call. This step increased answer rates by over 67%.
Neustar also offers Caller Name Optimization (CNO) Emergency Call Registry to hospitals, health care providers, state and local health officials, public safety agencies and other government officials to ensure COVID related calls reached the public.
This service is in use by health departments in more than 30 states. Healthcare providers should consider these technologies to ensure their patients stay safe and protected from the criminals who would do them harm.