Have you thought about the risks that could threaten your dental practice faces on a daily basis? When asked about risks, many practice owners talk about competition, rising costs, lack of qualified employees etc. But a significant source of risk that quite a few dentists ignore is regulatory compliance.
We’re not just talking about the big things like HIPAA violations, although these also happen regularly in some areas. For instance, you could be fined for not following nitrous oxide safety guidelines. You can be investigated for not adequately protecting your patient information from Internet security attacks. The list of possible violations and their consequences is quite long.
Compliance, Violations, and Consequences
You can comply with some regulations by having updated policies or contingency plans. Others will require periodic checks or monitoring for compliance. Some policies may even require you to train employees on a quarterly or annual basis to stay up to date. There is no way to predict when you could be subject to a state or federal inspection or to know what action can trigger an extensive investigation.
What the consequences of noncompliance? A small violation such as not having a specific employee policy can trigger fines of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Serious incidents such as a HIPAA violation can cost your clinic millions! Criminal penalties can potentially include prison sentences that will completely disrupt your life and practice.
A dental clinic can be investigated by so many agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Office of Civil Rights (for HIPAA violations), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s not surprising that so many practices are at risk of paying the price for violations.
What Can You Do?
You can try three different strategies to protect against noncompliance. Which one is suitable for your clinic will depend on:
- How much time do you have on your hands? Can you do everything on your own or will you need help?
- Do you have the patience to read through endless pages of regulations and frameworks?
- How much will it cost to do it yourself versus hiring experts in your region?
The DIY Route
If you have the time and patience, you can check various websites for the regulations that apply to your practice. For example, certain frameworks may not apply to general dentistry or to clinics with fewer than 3 dentists and so on. Most federal and state agencies offer comprehensive documents and even training packages on the relevant legislation. Certain vendors will also provide off-the-shelf training packages that include software, manuals, and other learning aids.
Hire Some Experts
If you don’t have time but can afford to, it might be easier to hire experts in regulatory compliance. Such experts will have specialized knowledge relevant to your field and area of operations. You don’t have to wade through frameworks that don’t apply to you or ones you’re exempt from. They can audit your practice for potential violations and give you options on how to correct them before an official inspection happens.
Get Certified or Accredited
Going through an accreditation process can be an eye-opener for many practice owners. If you’re confident that you are in compliance with all the applicable regulations, the accreditation will give you peace of mind that you are ready for any audit or inspection. If not, it’ll give you the tools to get up to speed. Given the number of frameworks that apply to dental clinics at the federal and state level, you have to be proactive to ensure compliance. Take appropriate steps to ensure you and your practice are well protected.