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Office Policy Manual - An Obsolete Manual is Just as Risky as not Having one

It is good practice to have established polices on how to handle a variety of circumstances which might arise in your practice. In fact, the office policy and procedure manual is essential to the efficient operation of every dental practice.

Years ago, we provided an assessment to a thriving dental office. The practice owner was very proud to show us his office where there was a large floor to ceiling bookshelf filled with policy and procedure manuals. Very impressive, yet also very risky. Of course, our follow up question was, “Which manual are you using”? 

What You Should Know

It is good practice to have established polices on how to handle a variety of circumstances which might arise in your practice such as no shows, use of social media, terminating care, etc. In fact, the office policy and procedure manual is essential to the efficient operation of every dental practice.

However, it is not unusual to find an office does not have a manual, or that has a manual which has been inherited and is not necessarily relied upon. Or, as mentioned above, a practice that has been accumulating office manuals through the years from various sources. All of these situations – not having a policy manual, having a policy manual which is obsolete and/or not used, or having multiple manuals from various sources which may provide conflicting information – are risky. 

It would not be usual in a claim situation for plaintiff’s counsel to inquire about your policy manual to determine if you are following your own established protocols. Even dental boards have been known to inquire about policies. Recently, we ran across a situation where a dentist was reprimanded by the board for not establishing and implementing policies related to patient billings.

An office policy manual serves as a training, orientation and compliance guide for new employees as well as seasoned staff members. It defines operational expectations, and serves as a risk management tool that lowers liability exposure in the office while illustrating the desire for continuous improvement. 

Procedures in a manual may not demonstrate compliance; however, well defined and documented processes do and can be of help in a claim situation. It is important that the office policy manual be reviewed annually by the staff, with documentation that the review has been completed and the manual updated as necessary. 

When policies are updated, the original policies/procedures should be archived for future reference if necessary.

For your manual to be effective it must be kept current and shared with your entire staff. Above all, policies and procedures contained in your manual must be implemented and enforced.

Updating Your Office Policy Manual

If your office policy manual is in need of any updates, be sure to check our Forms Library. While these forms were created for our physician insureds, many are pertinent for situations in your dental office. They can be customized for your office and specialty.

Additional information regarding a procedures manual can be found through reading Prototype your practice with a procedures manual.

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