Malpractice Risks for Dental Hygienists

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Malpractice risks for dental hygienists

It might seem as though dental hygienists are unlikely to be named in malpractice lawsuits, but that is not the case. According to the National Practitioner DataBank from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 2,530 medical malpractice payment reports and adverse action reports taken against dental hygienists and assistants between 2003 and 2013.

Common reasons for these lawsuits include:

  • Injury to the patient during cleaning or other procedure
  • Missed diagnosis of disease (e.g. oral cancer, periodontal disease, etc.)
  • Inadequate documentation (non-updated medical history,  incomplete patient records)
  • Failure to follow HIPAA guidelines for patient privacy

The American Dental Hygienists’ Association’s Standards for Clinical Dental Hygiene Practice lists the six components of patient-centered comprehensive care as encompassing:

  1. Assessment – Collecting, analyzing and documenting the patient’s oral and general health status and needs.
  2. Dental hygiene diagnosis – Interpreting assessments to reach conclusions about the patient’s dental hygiene treatment needs.
  3. Planning – Establishing goals and outcomes based on patient needs, expectations, values, and current scientific evidence.
  4. Implementation – Delivering dental hygiene services, minimizing risk and optimizing oral health.
  5. Evaluation – Measuring the extent to which the client has achieved the goals specified in the dental hygiene care plan.
  6. Documentation – Collecting and recording data about treatments planned and provided, recommendations, and other information relevant to patient care and treatment.

As with all health care standards, not only does strict adherence serve to ensure the best care and outcomes for patients, it also helps to minimize malpractice risks and aid in defending against a claim or lawsuit should one arise.

Even if you provide outstanding patient care, there is always a chance that you might become involved in a lawsuit. Fortunately, dental hygienists and assistants can purchase Professional Liability Insurance coverage at very affordable annual rates. Learn more and get a free online quote at Lockton Health.

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