• Don’t allow your patient’s insurance coverage to dictate the treatment you will provide – don’t delay and make sure you give the best possible treatment, regardless of the amount and quality of their insurance coverage.
• Refer those patients who need treatment beyond your comfort zone – if you are not completely familiar with a procedure or treatment, refer it to a specialist.
• Don’t begin treatment before making sure your patient knows what you are going to do – a careful and thorough explanation to your patient will avoid a later misunderstanding and dissatisfaction.
• Don’t scare your patients into agreeing to have multiple crowns done – don’t use oral slides or illustrations of worst case scenarios to convince a patient to agree to more treatments. Do what’s best for the patient in the circumstances.
• Don’t hide the fact you broke an instrument in the canal – a surprised patient is often an angry patient – let your patient know about a problem immediately so they that can anticipate it and take steps to mitigate any problems. Make sure you document the fact that you have informed your patient.
• When you make a mistake in the chart, do not erase it – an obvious dated correction is much better and illustrates transparency in a Court. An erasure implies you are hiding something and will look bad in Court.
• Avoid altering the patient treatment record – especially after receiving notice of a claim – never add information after the fact (after learning of a suit against you). Omission can be explained; alterations or additions always look bad in Court.
• Be careful about suing your patient for unpaid bills – this is malpractice risk management 101. If the patient is unhappy with the treatment and refuses to pay, a collection lawsuit will attract a counter-suit. Sometimes it is better to write off the debt or negotiate a deal with the patient (including a signed release against future malpractice suits).
• Do not ignore the inquiry letter from the Dental Board – don’t ignore an inquiry letter from the Dental Board. This is usually a patient complaint and although many are frivolous and without merit, the Dental Board will want your cooperation in a full investigation. Work with the Board to refute the allegations and seeks the assistance of an attorney in responding to inquiries.
Based upon Ten Ways for Dentists to Avoid Malpractice Claims by: James Charles Haigh