Save Yourself the Threat of an Abandonment Lawsuit

We live in a litigious society where miscommunications can end up with bad reviews on social media or, worse, a lawsuit.

How we navigate the minefield of patient relationships determines whether we build confidence in our patients or mistrust and avoidance.

An example of possible patient abandonment is when a patient fails to pay their dental bills, and the dentist or management refuses to provide further treatment until the account is settled.   If in the middle of patient treatment, this can be considered malpractice, especially if harm may come to the patient if not treated.

Another form of possible abandonment should be considered. There is a turnover in staff, and the new hire doesn’t know to follow up on the patient under active treatment and is not scheduled for care.

Other potentially harmful failures are:  

  • Patients aren’t contacted immediately after a failed or canceled appointment.
  • A team member fails to forward an important message from the patient to the dentist.
  • The business coordinator fails to schedule an appointment soon enough, harming the patient who had to wait weeks for care.

An area that is weak in many general dental practices is losing patients referred out of the office to see a specialist.  If these patients are not tracked through the referral process, patients are lost (possibly abandoned), and the general dentist and the specialist lose patient revenue and patient respect.

Refera’s software was designed by dentists to address the inefficient referral process that can lead to possible negligent situations. software manages patients who need appointments with specialists and exchanges information and documents on a HIPAA safe platform.

The three systems that improve the referral process:

1.  Communication and conversation.  A good referral experience for the patient must include the reason for the referral and the expected outcome.  Information about the specialist and reassurance that this doctor is the best fit for the patient’s needs.   Schedule the patient within the office if possible, and explain that the reason for the referral and supporting diagnostic documents will be safely (HIPAA) transferred to the specialist.  If you are using, you will store all the specialist information and the documents sent in one location.  The patient will also be able to video chat with the general dentist and the specialist to improve communication continuity.

Phoned referrals must be documented in the patient’s chart or in the referral software.  All pertinent information about the patient’s identification and medical history must be recorded along with clinical notes.  Information in regards to diagnostics ordered and the outcomes recorded.  Ongoing reports of the status of care and results are recorded.

2.   Tracking.  It is vital to know where your patient is at any given time by being able to track them through the referral/treatment process.  A designated platform that is separate from the patient’s record or computer chart is the best solution for managing this task.  If the referral is not completed promptly, the process should include contacting the patient and specialist to facilitate care

3.  Documentation. Phone conversations, referral forms, clinical notes in the form of SOAP format, and any other documents must all be stored in a HIPAA safe environment.  Informed consent to either treat or not to treat must be recorded in the patient’s record.

The patient’s journey out of the office, then to the specialist office, and back again is recorded in one source:

Improve your patient referral experience and avoid the problems of unintentional abandonment. 

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