Patient & Staff Relationships
Maintain a Good Rapport with your Patient
It may come as somewhat of a surprise that perhaps the most important risk-management strategy to lower your chances of a malpractice lawsuit, other than, of course, delivering appropriate and competent care, is to maintain a good rapport with your patients. Experience has shown that even patients who experience injuries secondary to substandard treatment are reluctant to sue a dentist they know personally and respect. The importance of a pleasant, but professional manner cannot be overstated.
Supervise Your Staff
You may be liable under your state’s laws for the errors or omissions of dentists or dental assistants working under your direction or employment. Although relatively few dental claims are vicarious in nature, you should ensure your professional staff is aware of and adheres to your office’s standards and policies.
Avoid Personal Relationships with Patients
Do not flirt with or date patients. Be aware that many state statutes and codes expressly prohibit sexual relations between a dentist and a patient. Such intimacy is usually deemed to be unprofessional conduct, which in turn will be argued by the claimant to rise to the level of professional negligence. Indeed, some state laws explicitly forbid a sexual relationship between a patient and healthcare professional and designate such actions as constituting sexual assault.
Irrespective of any state laws or rules, because of the amount of trust a patient is deemed to repose in a healthcare professional, certain psychologists and other mental health professionals opine that a patient is absolutely incapable of entering into what the dentist might otherwise believe is a consensual relationship. Regardless, the dentist-patient relationship must always take precedence. If a dentist puts his or her personal needs first, it is not only unethical but extremely damaging if a malpractice claim is filed under such circumstances.