Image depicting dental practice management software.



As practices embrace diverse administrative roles, compliance becomes increasingly important. Teams need to be aware of the importance of maintaining compliance, whether staying up to date on labor laws, OSHA and HIPAA regulations, documentation standards or other compliance-related issues. But how does a practice keep up with all the issues of compliance and not end up losing money or patients in the process?

Let’s look at three ways to create a culture of compliance:

1. Assign a compliance officer.

Dental practice compliance officer.

No one person can be the expert in all areas of compliance. Doctors and practice administrators need to dedicate a team member who will be responsible for maintaining compliance on whatever subject she/he is assigned. Often teams assign one person to be the OSHA and HIPAA compliance officer and another to deal with documentation or another to deal with labor laws. Various compliance areas require a designated person within the practice assigned to the role whose responsibilities include maintaining documentation and new team training or annual team retraining.

In a smaller practice, for OSHA and HIPAA, the same person can be assigned to the compliance role. In larger practices, OSHA and HIPAA compliance can be designated to several team members. Whatever area the compliance officer or team member assumes, the person should have excellent documentation and organizational skills and be a good communicator. Having an interest in a specific area such as risk management documentation is also helpful, but not necessary. Any team member can be assigned to the role of compliance in the practice.

2. Integrate leading compliance software.

Compliance software from Patterson Dental.

Your assigned compliance officer does not have to go it alone. There are a variety of products and resources available to assist with compliance in a number of areas. Products such as AutoSDS can be helpful in complying with OSHA standards; DDS Rescue, RevenueWell and OperaDDS for HIPAA standards; DentalPost for assistance in recruiting and hiring team members. Not having compliance in place in a practice can cost the practice more than these services cost – remember that a simple lack of awareness is not a defense if an issue ever arises. Within a dental practice, team members and dentist owners can be held liable in a number of ways for infractions of noncompliance. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – being proactive is better than being reactive when it comes to compliance.

3. Don’t forget patient compliance.

Tips on patient compliance from Patterson Dental.

There is also another area of compliance that often is forgotten – patient compliance. Team members recommend treatment for patients and, at times, patients may give a false acceptance of the services. A false acceptance occurs when the patient agrees to treatments and schedules the services, but cancels prior to the service without a reasonable explanation. The patient may say yes in person while in the practice but then decides she/he doesn’t really want to do the treatment, and thus the last-minute cancellation or failure. The patient is reluctant to voice concerns over the treatment and doesn’t want to “disappoint” the doctor or team or doesn’t “value” the treatment, says yes, but really means no.

These patients often fall through the cracks and are lost to recare – or worse – leave the practice because they feel they are being sold treatment. These false acceptance patients can create the “million dollar filing cabinet” – patients who have documented treatment that goes unscheduled. Using appropriate patient-friendly terminology while creating conversations that spark a sense of urgency for care can improve patient compliance.

Utilizing any one of the patient engagement or educational programs that are available such as Solutionreach, RevenueWell, OperaDDS or CAESY can help practices improve patient compliance by educating and involving the patient in creating a plan for care. Employing patient engagement programs help increase patients’ dental IQ while incorporating the latest technology that can spark patients’ interest in the practice and care recommended.

Compliance is a multifaceted issue that dental teams and practices need to stay on top of, from operational compliance to patient compliance. Lack of compliance can cost practices and teams not only monetarily but also in patient confidence. Today’s dental practice and patients demand nothing less.

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