Tech Firm Offers Free ‘Enhanced Caller ID' to Aid Hospitals, Essential Businesses

Our aversion to answering calls from unknown numbers is hurting hospitals trying to reach patients during the COVID-19 crisis. A tech company is offering a free solution.

NBC Universal, Inc.

When your phone rings, and you don't recognize the caller, do you answer?

Even if the caller ID says it's a hospital or doctor's office, should you believe it?

The explosion of illegal robocalls and spoofed caller ID scams in recent years has prompted many of us to simply ignore all calls from numbers we don't know. While that's a good way to avoid telemarketers and scammers, it's problematic for health care providers trying to reach their patients -- especially during a pandemic.

Researchers at mobile tech firm First Orion say more than 83 percent of all calls go unanswered, because recipients don't know or trust the caller ID display. Now, the company is offering free help that it says will help medical professionals reach more patients, more quickly.

Jeff Stalnaker, President of First Orion, says his company was inspired to take action when it heard hospitals couldn't contact patients with COVID-19 test results.

"Because those customers don't see who's calling, meaning it was just a ten-digit number, many of those calls were going unanswered," Stalnaker said. "We have a technology that's deployed, where we can insert the name for a particular phone call, and it's displayed on the user's and consumer's handsets."

This promotional image provided by First Orion demonstrates how its technology lets call recipients see exactly who is calling, such as a hospital or coronavirus test center.

NBC Bay Area was first to report on First Orion's enhanced caller ID technology, late last year. First Orion says it's found great success so far with medical professionals using its "Inform" system.

"Before we implemented that, the answer rates were less than 30 percent for these kinds of calls," Stalnaker said. "Now it’s over 70 percent. So, it's making a difference in this world for people that really need help, and for our first responders and our hospitals."

First Orion says it's also offering its Inform enhanced caller ID for free to other essential businesses and government agencies during the pandemic.

Right now, the enhanced caller ID only works on T-Mobile phones, with Sprint coming soon. First Orion says it intends to have the service functioning on more than 100 million phones by the end of the current quarter.

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