ISDS: Dentists need to keep patients informed during crisis
With many dental offices throughout Illinois temporarily closing due to COVID-19, ISDS wants to ensure that our member dentists are taking the necessary steps to keep their patients informed of office closures and where to seek emergency treatment – and that you avoid any potential patient abandonment issues that could jeopardize your license to practice.
The ISDS recommendation states that, if a dental office chooses to stay open, only emergency dental treatment should be provided. Whether your office is open for emergencies or closed completely, ISDS wants to reinforce that member dentists should follow the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct, which states that dentists shall be obliged to make reasonable arrangements for the emergency care of their patients of record. In general, it is not a reasonable plan to instruct your patients to go to a hospital emergency room for treatment. Rather, you should contact a neighboring dentist and arrange for him or her to cover for you while you are away. This is addressed in Section 4, Principle: Justice, 4.B. Emergency Service.
If your office is closed, and the office you have referred your patients to for emergencies has subsequently closed, you may direct patients to the Find A Dental Clinic tool.
Here are a few other things to do:
- Keep your practice’s phone message updated with instructions for patients to see emergency treatment. Check your phone messages frequently so callers can leave a voicemail message for you, and you can respond in a timely manner.
- If your office is completely closed and you are referring your patients to another practice for emergency care, be sure to regularly confirm that the office is still open and treating emergencies.
- Keep the lines of communication open with patients by regularly updating your website and social media. The online information should reflect your practice’s current situation and instructions to patients on seeking emergency treatment.
- Post signage on your practice’s entrance with current information on your practice and where to go in an emergency.
- Finally, remember to follow the Illinois Dental Practice Act at all times.