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Worried About a Lawsuit? 5 Things to Know About Peer Review

Don’t you hate that feeling?  You’ve been treating a patient and something starts to go wrong.  Maybe you had a bad day and the treatment didn’t come out perfectly.  Or perhaps everything looks great but the patient is upset for some reason that sounds unreasonable.

Hopefully you and the patient can come to an understanding.  You might redo the work at no charge or have a conversation to help the patient gain more realistic expectations.  But there are situations that are not so easy to resolve.  For example, we can’t just wave a magic “do-over” wand for a case involving thousands of dollars of laboratory work and integrated implants.

If you think that a patient may be considering legal action against you, please, please, please consider ADA Peer Review.  Just make a simple call to your local dental society and find out the next steps.  Here’s what you should know about this amazing member benefit:

(1) It is truly a jury of your peers.

You and the patient will present your cases to the peer review committee.  This committee will be composed of dentists and one non-dentist, typically a respected member of the community who has volunteered their time.  The dentists may include specialists depending on the nature of your case.  This group will review your records and examine the patient privately to determine the quality of care that was provided.

(2) It’s confidential.

Whatever is decided, no one in the dental society or the larger community will know about it.  If the judgement is ruled in the patient’s favor, you don’t get your name published anywhere for all to see.  In some cases your name might have to be published in the National Practitioner’s Data Bank, but that is rare.

(3) There are no punitive damages.

This is critical!  The only money that will change hands is the fee for the work completed.  The patient can’t be awarded money for “emotional distress” or other complaints.  The most they can get back is their original investment.

(4) The patient can’t sue you afterwards.

If the peer review committee finds in your favor, the patient can’t bring up a traditional lawsuit against you.  The patient will sign a document before the peer review process that prevents them from going after you just because they didn’t like the committee’s decision.

(5) It’s free.

Both you and the patient do not have to have legal representation present.  This will save you and the patient a lot of time and money while resolving the dispute.  For patients, this is one of the biggest selling points for agreeing to the peer preview process.

In a nut shell, peer review committees act as mediators to help resolve disputes between dentists and their patients, but there’s a lot more to it.  For more information, check out this document on peer review and speak with your local dental society.  It’s only available to ADA members, so this is yet another reason to join organized dentistry.


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