Posted February 14, 2017 by Danielle H
One of the biggest fears a dentist has in his or her career is being confronted with a lawsuit or going before the dental board. Statistics say a dentist will likely face 3 to 5 law suits or dental board cases in their lifetime. How can you prepare for or prevent a malpractice lawsuit? Today’s post will look at 4 ways to minimize the risk of malpractice lawsuits against your practice.
Maintaining open communication with your patients is one of the most important aspects to managing malpractice risk. Inform patients of your office policies regarding after-hours care, prescription refills and expectations for conduct in the practice. Patients who request to speak with the doctor outside of their scheduled appointments should be told when to expect a response from the dentist. The dentist should always follow up with any patient who is expressing dissatisfaction rather than defer to a staff member.
Get it in writing
Even though everyone knows that proper documentation is the best defense in a malpractice lawsuit, many practices continue to fall short. Document your facts, impressions, clinical judgement and treatment objectively. Refrain from using words that contain bias towards patients or previous providers in your documentation. Also, be sure to note when patients report both positive or negative comments.
No chairside manner
Patients who like their providers are far less likely to file a lawsuit. It is the entire team’s job to provide a great patient experience. Basic things like greeting every patient you come in contact with should be the expectation. Your clinical team members bear an even greater responsibility to ask questions and listen to the patient. Patient needs or concerns should be shared with everyone on your team to ensure everyone is on the same page. If a patient has treatment concerns, minimizing or dismissing those concerns will likely lead to dissatisfaction. Taking the time now to explain procedures and complications thoroughly will reduce an opportunity for disappointment later.
No formal discharge process
There may come a time when a patient becomes a problem for your practice and termination of the doctor/patient relationship must occur. A formal discharge process should be followed to ensure there is no additional liability for the dentist. Outline a process for your practice that helps your team follow the same steps every time. All communications (phone and written) with the patient should be documented. Written termination should include an end date and make it clear that the patient will not be seen by the dentist after that date has passed.
Every practice faces challenges when it comes to managing patients and minimizing risk. Keep in mind that taking steps to listen and communicate properly, identifying dissatisfaction, having adequate documentation, and understanding the legal consequences involved are just some of the important factors in managing risk with your patients.