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Should I Ask My Patients to Sign an Arbitration Agreement?

In today's judicial environment, PSIC does not believe arbitration agreements are in the best interest of our dentists or their patients. Here's why.

Many dentists call our Claims Advice Hotline. Here is an example of an interesting question we received: 

Q: A dentist insured with another malpractice insurance company (not PSIC) said his policy requires his patients to sign an agreement stating that they will resolve any malpractice allegations via arbitration. Is this a good idea?

A: Generally, the intent of an arbitration agreement is for the parties subject to the agreement to resolve their dispute by a neutral arbitrator instead of a jury. Arbitration is often times less expensive than taking a case to trial. However, in today’s judicial environment, there are several reasons PSIC does not believe arbitration agreements are in the best interest of its policyholders or their patients.

First of all, by entering into an arbitration agreement both the patient and dentist forfeit their right to resolve their dispute in court. 

Moreover, arbitration is typically binding and favors compromise. This means the dentist would be more likely to be found at fault and be unable to negotiate or appeal the decision.

Another factor to keep in mind (as with any malpractice case or board action) is that if the arbitrator's decision requires the dentist to issue payment for damages, the dentist will be required to report the payment to the National Practitioner Data Bank. A summary of the allegations and payment amount can be queried by third-party payers, state licensing boards and other entities. This can lead to a host of consequences, including a loss of credentialing from some networks and a separate professional disciplinary action.

Finally, dentists who have used arbitration tell us that this agreement must be implemented prior to treating the patient—before the dentist has established rapport with the patient and earned his or her confidence. Yet, the dentist is requesting that the patient agree not to go to court if anything goes wrong. Many dentists believe this sends the wrong message and starts the dentist/patient relationship off on the wrong foot.

At Professional Solutions, we encourage our dentists to call our Claims Advice Hotline at 1-800-640-6504 about a troubling situation or when they need advice about a potential malpractice claim or board complaint. 

Our malpractice insurance policy does not require dentists to enter into arbitration agreements with their patients. We talk our policyholders through the issues involved, as well as guide them toward taking the best approach for their individual situations.

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