Like any medical professional, dentists face the same types of risks when it comes to facing malpractice claims. While surely no medical expert intends on providing poor service or failing to meet expectations, it’s impossible to foresee every incident that can lead to a claim. In this article, however, we’re going to provide three basic steps that all dentists can follow as a general rule to mitigate the frequency and severity of Dental Malpractice Insurance claims.
Unfortunately, malpractice lawsuits are not uncommon. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 16,397 tort cases were decided by a bench or jury trial in 2005, and 15 percent of those were medical practice cases. Another Bureau of Justice report concludes that roughly 5 percent of all medical malpractice trials involve dentists.
There comes a time in every dental practice where potential complaints will need to be investigated, even if they are unwarranted. Regardless, cooperate with the Board to make sure complaints are resolved. If you’re worried any of the complaints will result in a claim, notify your insurance company and legal counsel, if applicable, ahead of time.
Never start treating a patient until you are sure they understand exactly what you are going to do and the possible risks involved. Don’t take for granted that your patient has some background knowledge of dental procedures. Speak plainly and be sure to encourage them to ask questions. You may even want to have your patients sign a consent form that states they understand the treatment and its risks.
Each patient visit should be documented and saved. Never erase anything in a chart, no matter how old the information is. If a mistake is made, cross it out, note that it was revised, and document the accurate information right next to it. Whether the visit was an annual checkup or a root canal, all issues need to be documented. This is much easier to do with digital recordkeeping practices, but regardless of which method your office utilizes, write everything down.
If a patient sues you down the road, you’ll have accurate and detailed records to come to your aid. If you fail to so, this could be a huge strike against you in a court of law and make your practice look like it’s hiding critical information.
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