How hospitals are responding to thousands of disruptive robocalls

Hospitals across the country have seen on overwhelming influx of robocalls, including Tufts Medical Center, which registered more than 4,500 robocalls in two hours in April 2018, reports The Washington Post.

According to the Boston-based hospital's Chief Information Security Officer Taylor Lehmann, the robocalls spread like a virus to one phone line to the next to disrupt communication. The call was from an unknown threat who was speaking Mandarin and asked for the person who picked up the phone to give their personal information or else the caller would be deported.

Being in the heart of Boston's Chinatown neighborhood, these robocalls were especially troubling for Tufts Medical Center. Other hospitals share Tufts Medical Center's concern as government regulators and phone companies are slow to help.

At Noyes Health, which is part of a network of hospitals affiliated with the University of Rochester (N.Y.), patients in the community report that they have been contacted by scammers whose caller identifications makes it appear they are receiving a call from the hospital. However, John Dorak, director of IT infrastructure, said those calls are robocalls.

Some hospital IT leaders are heading to Congress to advocate for change. Dave Summit, CIO of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, is among those leaders. At his Tampa-based medical center, he registered more than 6,600 robocalls over a 90-day period. Mr. Summit estimated that the robocalls consumed around 65 hours of hospital response time.

When Mr. Summit sought out help from the hospital's phone carrier, CenturyLink, he was told the problem wasn't severe enough over a 72-hour period to warrant assistance.

Telecommunication providers say they are working on solutions that would notify hospitals and patients of robocalls. However, widespread implementation of the technology is months away, according to The Washington Post.

For Tufts Medical Center, Thomas Whitehead, vice president of federal government affairs at Windstream, the phone provider for the hospital, said one of the reasons the robocalls could not be blocked was because Tufts Medical Center uses older phone technology.

"We do have a call-blocking solution we offer," Mr. Whitehead told The Washington Post. "We just couldn't offer it on their system."

Today, Tufts Medical Center continues to train and warn staff of potential fraud through robocalls.

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