MLMIC publishes Risk Management Checklists to assist insured dentists with the creation of policies and protocols in critical areas, including patient communication. These checklists focus on specific risk management issues policyholders are likely to encounter in the healthcare setting, like after-hours calls, communication between consulting and referring dentists, sharing test results and communicating with low health literacy patients.

We encourage you to review these checklists on a regular basis to promote patient safety and reduce potential liability exposure:

After-Hours Calls

The failure to properly handle and document after-hours telephone calls can adversely affect patient care and lead to potential liability exposure for the dentist. Should an undocumented telephone conversation become an issue in a lawsuit, the jury may be more likely to believe the recollections of the patient.

View or download the checklist here: Management and Documentation of After Hours Calls.

Effective Communication With Patients

Effective communication is the cornerstone of the dentist-patient relationship. Patients’ perceptions of the dentist’s communication skills may impact the potential for allegations of malpractice. The items on this list help to promote open communication and enhance our ability to reach an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate plan of care.

View or download the checklist here: Effective Communication With Patients.

Communication Between Dentists

Lack of communication between dentists may result in poor coordination of care. This may include a delay in diagnosis or treatment, the failure to order diagnostic testing or act upon abnormal test results or the failure to prescribe appropriate medications. Clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of the referring and consulting dentists will promote safe and effective patient care.

View or download the checklist here: Promoting Communication Between Consulting and Referring Dentists.

Communicating Critical Test Results

The communication of test results is an important part of providing care and may involve various healthcare professionals. Test results may be overlooked, lost, scanned into the wrong record, etc. Abnormal test results requiring follow-up present an additional risk if they are not received, reviewed or communicated to the patient. This may result in missed or delayed diagnoses, patient injuries and subsequent claims of malpractice. If a dentist orders a test, he or she is responsible for ensuring that the results have been received and reviewed. Dental practices should have policies and procedures in place for the management of test results.

View or download the checklist here: Communication and Follow-Up of Critical Test Results.

Low Health Literacy Patients

The lay public often has limited knowledge and understanding of dental terminology. A patient’s ability to understand dental information may be compounded by stress, age, illness and language or cultural barriers. Effective communication with patients may improve compliance with treatment regimens, enhance the informed consent process and increase safe medication use. Dental office practices can improve the patient experience, and reduce potential liability exposure, by employing the following recommendations.

View or download the checklist here: Communication with Low Health Literacy Patients.

MLMIC’s Risk Management Consultants are available to assist insured dentists in their ongoing efforts to identify and address areas of concern related to patient communication. For guidance regarding a specific situation, please contact MLMIC’s Risk Management Department at (800) 275-6564.

In addition, policyholders can stay up to date on the latest risk management guidance and alerts by monitoring the MLMIC Dental blogThe Scope: Dental Edition, Dental Impressions and other MLMIC communications.