Electronic Doctors; Why Not Electronic Collectors?

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February 13, 2014 by Jim C.

On the West Coast they are testing the use of robots as physical replacements for doctor hospital visits with patients. The robot is programmed to move about the hospital with little human intervention. This robot has a viewing screen/camera and a board certified physician appears on that screen to view/interact with the hospital patient. This physician will ask and answer questions as if in the room with the patient, receive assistance from the nursing staff to accurately diagnose the patient, order tests and offer routine follow-up advice. Robots (and robotic surgery) have slowly become acceptable practice in the medical field as they have in other industries. Today, robots build automobiles and computer components, and are in use in one form or another around the world. Robots are becoming “humanized” through the use of technologies available today that weren’t even thought of 5 or 10 years ago. Today’s technologies have impacted everyone’s existence phenomenally, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Did you ever think your iPhone would talk to you or respond to your spoken request? What does Siri really think? Or does Siri really think? Who is Siri and where does she come from? Will she learn from us as a child learns from a parent? Will Siri gain wisdom over the next 20-30 years? Maybe only Siri knows the answers to these questions…

If a doctor can treat a patient through the medium of a robot, it stands to reason that a debt collector can collect the ensuing medical bill using that same technology, right? I’ve been a debt collector for 30+ years which would indicate to some that I was collecting before computers were available to serve our industry. Computerization hasn’t changed the nuts and bolts of collecting a debt it’s just made us extremely more efficient in doing so. Back in the day we literally dialed the phone, there were two forms of payment: cash or check, and predator attorneys didn’t exist. Today, the “dialer” is automated to a large extent, electronic payment is the norm and attorneys have literally created an industry suing debt collectors. Don’t get me wrong, some debt collectors deserve to be sued for their harassing and illegal activities, but the majority of debt collectors operate within the laws as they exist today. In some cases, the court interpretations of the laws make it difficult at best to comply and still collect the debt. Maybe you’ve heard the saying “you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.” This is the situation we have today with a 2006 court ruling in Foti v NCO Financial Systems and a subsequent court ruling in Zortman v JC Christiansen and Associates. The crux of the situation is that we must identify ourselves as debt collectors in a communication to collect a debt, yet if we don’t speak directly to the consumer (still a communication) and we do this (i.e. a voice mail message) it could be construed as a “third party disclosure”, also a statute violation. The courts acknowledge this catch 22 but offer no options to avoid a lawsuit. There is only one certain way to avoid a lawsuit and that is to not communicate! Maybe this is where an electronic collector comes into play.

Amazon has just announced the use of drones to deliver packages to consumers. If NASA can put a man on the moon and Amazon can put your order on your doorstep using a drone robot then a debt collector should be able to use this same technology to collect debts. Maybe Siri can tell me how many drone robot visits I can expect to get from my collector drones, going doorstep to doorstep asking to be paid. There is no letter, there is no telephone call and the only message is delivered in person, just like the electronic doctor!

Further thought on this tells me it’s a fantastic concept. For those of you who are in the collection business you will know that information is what makes accounts collectible. Who (or what) better (way) to collect information than a drone? It goes right to the consumers home, checks out its surroundings, greets the consumer at the door and records everything! If the doctor can communicate with a patient via robotics I think I can too. This may sound outlandish to you, but 30 years ago we didn’t have phones that weren’t plugged into a wall and if you got caught talking to your phone and expecting a response you may have been locked up.

Siri, can you tell me when the first drone robotic collection will occur?

Jim Cox is vice-president and co-owner of United Credit Service, Inc.

Founded in 1950, United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service revenue cycle management and debt collection agency in Wisconsin providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. We offer pre-service collection solutions as well as traditional back-end collections. Visit our website at http://www.unitedcreditservice.com or call 877-723-2902.


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