Reliable and comprehensive communication between referring and consulting dentists is an important part of providing good patient care and managing risk. A lack of communication can result in treatment delays, failure to act on abnormal test findings, prescription mix-ups and more. Below are brief recommendations:

Risk management tips for communication between referring and consulting dentists

  1. Referring dentists should develop a method for determining whether a consultation has been completed and if a written report has been received.
  2. It should be standard office policy for dentists to review, initial and date all consultation reports prior to being filed in the patient’s dental record.
  3. The office should follow up to easily identify when a patient does not comply with the recommendation for a referral.
  4. If a patient has been non-compliant in obtaining the recommended referral or consultation, communicating with the patient is necessary to reinforce the necessity and reason for the referral.
  5. Consulting dentists should send written reports to referring dentists with findings, recommendations and information on abnormal test results.
  6. If a written report from the consultant is not received in a timely manner, the referring dentist should reach out to request one.
  7. The consultant should contact the referring dentist about any patients who fail to keep appointments. Dental record documentation should reflect the missed appointment, as well as notification of the referring dentist.
  8. Telephone conversations between referring and consulting dentists are important when clarification of the contents of a report is necessary. These discussions should also be documented in the patient’s dental record.

With good communication built into office procedures, the patient and referring and consulting dentists benefit from improved care and decreased risk. For additional details, visit MLMIC’s risk management tips for dentists.