One of the biggest fears that any medical professional may have, including Perth dentists, is that a patient decides that they wish to sue them for medical malpractice. Apart from the massive financial implications should they lose, the subsequent damage to their professional reputation can often be irreparable.
Sadly, many of the medical malpractice lawsuits are justified, and the patient is rightly entitled to any damages which are rewarded due to the nature of the harm resulting from what the medical professional did. Many others are not justified and are soon dismissed, however, that will not erase the stress and worry they will have created for the medical professional in question.
Thankfully, there are tried and trusted steps you can take as a dentist that will dramatically reduce the chances of a patient suing you for medical malpractice, which, if followed, should mean you need not have to go through that same stressful process.
Communication Is Key
Whilst you might think that how you perform as a dentist is a large factor in avoiding medical malpractice suits, and it obviously is, an even greater one is how well you communicate with your patients. The simple fact is that good communication has prevented more medical malpractice suits, than good medical skills.
By communication we mean every interaction you have with patients and that includes before, during, and after their treatment. Ask them questions, answer them courteously, and even with those ‘difficult’ patients, always do your best to remain calm and friendly whilst speaking with them.
This applies throughout your dental practice so ensure that staff who answer the telephone are reminded how they should be communicating with patients. When you give a diagnosis or are explaining why a certain treatment is needed, always do so in understandable terms, and with empathy.
Following on from communicating well with patients, doing so will go a long way to help you build a relationship with them. We are not suggesting that you invite them round to your home for dinner with the family, but at least try to learn a little bit about them as a point of reference the next time you see them. If patients trust and like you, they are less likely to want to take any kind of legal action against you.
Manage Patient Expectations
You will note we are still in the communication realm, and an essential part of it is managing a patient’s expectations. Whether it is you informing them of a treatment they require, or it is them requesting some form of cosmetic treatment, always ensure that they know exactly what the outcome will be. Over promising that a whitening treatment is going to give the same smile as Hollywood stars, is not the way to set expectations.
Go further and even warn them of any negative consequences too. Better to give them the negatives first, and before the treatment, than not doing so, and then ending up in court because what happened was not what they expected.
Ask For Help If You Need It
We are sure you are a dedicated and skilled dentist who takes pride in their professionalism, but even the best in their field sometimes need help. If you come across a difficult or unusual diagnosis for your dental patients, do not be afraid to swallow your pride and seek a second opinion or advice from another dentist. Better this, than to proceed without knowing 100%, getting it wrong, and then facing a medical malpractice suit.