What Risk Management Do Dentists Have To Do For Lower Malpractice Insurance Rates?

You may have read about the rising costs of malpractice insurance and why doctors of all kinds have to purchase a policy. Some stories in the media even talk about how expensive insurance keeps medical professionals from practicing certain types of techniques that could be considered risky. But most people don't think about how that impacts them personally, and how their personal doctor or dentist works to minimize risk and lower insurance costs.

When you go to the dentist, you usually just assume that he or she is doing the best thing for your oral health. But sometimes caution on your dentist's part can mean higher costs, more tests or other things that impact your care. Here are three areas where your dentist may manage very carefully:

1. Strong patient communication.

There's no room for miscommunication in the modern dental practice. That's why you'll have to fill out several forms with health history and information. Everything you and your hygienist and dentist discuss with you will be noted, either electronically or by hand, in your chart.

This will also mean that you're unlikely to get an answer to any question you may have about your oral health by phone. If you call the office, you're likely to be required to make an appointment, even for minor issues. The dentist can't take a chance that your case is more complicated than you describe; there's always the chance you may decide to sue if you weren't given the correct information about treatment.

2. Saying no to piecemeal work.

Because fewer patients have comprehensive dental insurance, some may balk at expensive procedures. Even when these are necessary for continued oral health, inability to pay can make it hard for patients to agree to continued work. Other reasons can force patients to be non-compliant and not taking their dentists' preferred treatment, including lack of understanding or lack of motivation.

However, dentists who don't manage their patients' cases with optimum treatments may be at risk of lawsuits. You could ask your dentist to do different parts of the work as you can afford to pay, but by not doing it all at once, your dentist risks seeing you get worse and blaming it on ineffective treatment. So, your dentist may "fire" you as a patient if you can't or won't do the recommended treatment.

3. Sending you elsewhere for dental surgeries.

Two or three decades ago, more dentists performed simple surgeries in their offices. If you needed to have your wisdom teeth taken out, and the job would be relatively straightforward, your dentist would probably do it. Now, many dentists refer most or all surgeries to an oral surgeon because the use of sedation can drive up their insurance rates.

Because the oral surgeon performs more surgeries, works more regularly with anesthesia, and sees more challenges on a day-to-day basis, he or she is better able to assume the risk that comes with any type of operation. But you'll usually pay more overall to see a specialist, even if your dentist was perfectly capable of doing the surgery in-office.

The key to a good dentist-patient relationship is communication. Be sure to listen to your dentist's advice and talk openly about your needs. To learn more, contact HMBD Insurance Services