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I know about UNC’s AT&T soft phone client – how is this different?

The primary difference between the AT&T soft client and phone.com is that phone.com allows for text messaging with study participants. Research teams may establish a single phone.com line to service as a centralized study phone number that can send and receive text messages, as well as support voice calling, video conferencing, and faxing.

Are there other systems I can choose to use for texting with participants?

At this time, no. Phone.com is the only system that has been approved for communicating via text message with study participants. You may text with participants directly from your personal cell phone (with no PHI included), but Google voice, Doximity, and other carrier apps are not permitted for communication with research participants.

What should I consider in deciding which plan to choose?

Most users will be satisfied with either the basic or plus plan.

The basic plan has a limited number of voice minutes and text messages available. It is important to note that a single “text segment” includes up to 164 characters; if you send a text message of 165 or more characters, that counts as 2 text messages. Additionally, the video conferencing platform with the basic plan is not HIPAA compliant.

The plus plan includes unlimited voice calls and text messages. The video conferencing platform in the plus plan is HIPAA compliant.

Can I just get a single phone.com number to share among my whole team?

Yes, research teams may choose to share a single line among study team members. However, please note that anyone given access to a phone.com line must be authorized study personnel who have permission to view study participant data. If you have different studies that have different study personnel involved, you should establish separate accounts for each study.

What can I text to a study participant?

Text messaging is unencrypted communication. Prior to communicating with a participant via text, the participant must have consented to receiving unencrypted communication (via either the consent addendum for unencrypted communication or by incorporation of the template language into the main consent.) Text messages must never include PHI and should include the minimum amount of information necessary for the communication.

Please review the IRB’s FAQs on unencrypted communication with research participants here: Unencrypted Communication for Human Subject Research FAQ – UNC Research

Is this service HIPAA compliant?

Text messaging is not encrypted and not HIPAA compliant. Voice calling and voicemail through phone.com are HIPAA compliant. If you select the “plus” plan, the video conferencing is also HIPAA compliant. If you select the “basic” plan, video conferencing is not HIPAA compliant*.

*There is a “Lock” feature in the video conferencing platform (which prevents any other participants from joining) that is only available on the PLUS and PRO user plans but not the BASIC. This is why the BASIC is not considered HIPAA compliant.

Should I use the just login via web browser or download the app?

Either is acceptable, but you may find the app easier to use. If you choose to login via the web browser, please note you must be logged in and have the webpage open in order to receive notifications of incoming calls or text messages.

Can I get training on this system?

Yes, all new users will be provided with a 1 hour orientation from phone.com. They will provide an overview of the system and features, and work with you to establish any optimizations you may request. If you wish to use the downloadable app, they will also provide you with instructions to download and set-up the app.

Can I choose my phone number for my phone.com account?

Yes, you may choose to utilize either a toll-free number, a local number (based on availability), or create a custom number (for an additional fee). If you choose to utilize a local number, we recommend selecting a “984” area code.

I have an existing phone number that I have historically used for communication with my study participants. Can I use that same phone number with a phone.com line?

Yes, you may choose to have your existing phone number ported to the new phone.com line. Doing so would eliminate your existing phone service and require coordination between phone.com and UNC ITS to verify the phone number is eligible for transfer. The process to port a phone number is expected to take 7-10 days.

How do I submit payment for my phone.com services?

Payments may be submitted monthly or annually (at a discounted rate) using a p-card. There is no contract required.

What if I have problems with the system after I establish my account?

You should contact Caleb Gilsdorf at cgilsdorf@phone.com or (858) 225-8539.

Phone.com also offers 24/7 user support available by calling 1-800-998-7087.