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Emailing has become a convenient and efficient way of communicating. However, emails can be dangerous.
What you put in an e-mail today will be around for a long time. Just ask Tiger Woods.
Many dental offices communicate with their patients through their websites or email addresses. Using such technology is an easy and time-saving way to confirm appointments and to exchange non-clinical information with patients. However, an increasing number of dentists use e-mail, instead of phone calls, to respond to patients’ complaints. Doing so may put a dentist at risk in the following ways:
You may say things in an e-mail to a patient that you would not say in person or over the phone. In representing dentists over the years, I have seen dentists in e-mails calling their patients a “liar” or a “nut case” or worse. If a lawsuit should evolve, the patient’s attorney would love to show a jury an e-mail with unprofessional comments by the dentist.
Exchanging angry e-mails with a patient never solves the problem. In all my years as a defense attorney, I have never seen a patient, after receiving a confrontational e-mail from a dentist, come to an epiphany that the dentist is right and the patient is wrong. Instead, the e-mails usually escalate the emotions on both sides, which never leads to a peaceful resolution.
A dentist may say something in an e-mail that is not dentally or factually correct. In an attempt to persuade the patient to see his or her side of the story, a dentist may say things that are completely wrong. For instance, I have seen an e-mail from a dentist who stated that “over 50 percent of root canals fail” to explain away poorly done endodontic treatment. Such a statement by a dentist is not only incorrect, but may make it impossible for a defense attorney to obtain an expert witness to defend such a statement.
Resist the temptation to email a patient in response to a disagreement over treatment. Instead, pick up the telephone to personally contact the patient; better yet, schedule an appointment so that you can have a face-to-face discussion with the patient. Sure, e-mailing avoids the discomfort of listening to an irate patient; however, a telephone call or a meeting with the patient is a far more effective means of settling financial disputes or dealing with clinical complications.
The next time a patient contacts you complaining about that dental implant, pick up the phone -- not the mouse.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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