Why Soliciting New Patients by Phone is Different Than Advertising by Mail

By Graham Nicol, Esq., Health Care Risk Manager, Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist (Health Law)

Q: In Florida, a dentist cannot lawfully solicit members of the public to become patients either in-person or by telephone. Does that mean dentists can solicit new patients via the mail?

A: Yes, it means exactly that. The Board of Dentistry distinguishes between in-person or telephone solicitation versus that done by mail. The reason they treat the communications differently based on phone versus mail is that phone solicitation “cannot be supervised, may exert pressure and often demands an immediate response without affording the recipient an opportunity for comparison or reflection.” A patient is not under pressure via television or radio advertising or by receiving a flyer in the mail.

As 21st century Americans, we all quite effectively ignore advertising and junk mail, but hanging up on a telephone caller is harder to do. So don’t call strangers on the phone asking them to be your patients. Even worse, don’t stroll door to door looking for patients like it’s Halloween! Getting arrested for trespassing is never going to build your practice.

 

This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal advice. If you have a specific concern or need legal advice regarding your dental practice, you should contact a qualified attorney.

An Early Bite with Dr. John Paul: “Are You on My Insurance?”

By Dr. John Paul, FDA Editor

What do you want your staff to say when a patient asks some variation of, “Why aren’t you on my insurance plan?” This is usually asked with the hidden threat or just basic confusion that they have to go where their insurance says.

“Mrs. Gruntbuns, if Dr. Paul were to be ‘on your insurance’ he will be required to sign a contract with your company that will dictate how he behaves when he sees you. Sometimes it may be just as simple as what to charge when, but it could mean he can’t provide a service that might be the most appropriate service for you. Because he believes no one should interfere in his relationship with you, he is unwilling to sign such a contract. That said, we will work with any insurance company that can provide your benefits in a timely manner without undue interference; we just aren’t ‘on your plan.’”

If you are a preferred provider for some plans but not all, you can use this same wording. Just note that you have reviewed the contract you will be required to sign and feel that unlike other plans you accept, this one will put unnecessary stress on your doctor-patient relationship.

Have a question you have a tough time answering? Send it to Dr. Paul at jpaul@bot.floridadental.org.

Case Studies: Health Care Data Breach Risks (video)

By The Doctors Company

The health care industry suffers more data breaches than any other business segment — a total of 51 percent of all breaches. This video presents an overview of the cybersecurity threats facing health care organizations and what they can do to mitigate their risk.

Claim Scenario: Hired and Non-owned Auto

By Heidi Stearn, The Hartford, Outpatient Healthcare Program Director

Dr. Smith has a patient coming in for her dentures at 11 a.m. It already is 10:30 and the dental lab still has not dropped them off at the office. Dr. Smith does not want to reschedule the patient, so he asks his receptionist to go to the lab to pick them up in her car, which usually occurs a few times a week. As soon as the receptionist pulls out of the driveway, she rear ends another car. After calling the police, the receptionist realizes the other driver has no insurance and she knows the other driver is going to be looking for her to cover the damage and medical bills. Without thinking, the receptionist indicates that she was just leaving the dental office to pick up the dentures and feels awful about the accident.

A few months pass, and Dr. Smith receives a letter in the mail from an attorney indicating he is responsible for the damages his employee caused, given she was in the scope of work. Dr. Smith quickly calls his insurance agent and learns that he has hired/non-owned coverage and he won’t have to pay anything out of pocket, given this accident occurred in the scope of employment. If he did not have this coverage, his practice could be held liable for the damages that his employee caused. Make sure your office insurance policy has hired and non-owned auto liability insurance!

Heidi Stern is responsible for working with FDA Services on the insurance program. Call FDA Services at 800.877.7597 today for more information.