Terminating the Patient-Dentist Relationship
Section 29.2(a)(1)of Title 8 of the Official Complication of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (8 NYCRR) defines unprofessional dental conduct to include "abandoning or neglecting a patient or client under and in need of immediate professional care, without making reasonable arrangements for the continuation of such care."
The three key points in terminating a patient are timing, communication and recordkeeping.
Timing: Termination of the relationship should be at a normal stopping point and
can not after treatment has been started. The stopping point should not leave the patient with temporary dental work or work that will require immediate follow-up care. The termination should not be for a discriminatory reason.
Communication: Always terminate a patient in writing. The letter should include the following points:
- A clear statement that the patient/dentist relationship is over.
- An explanation of the reason for terminating the relationship.
- A statement that you will remain available for a reasonable period (30 days is acceptable unless you are in an area that finding a dentist is difficult) for emergency services only.
- That the dentist is willing to forward copies of patient's records, free of charge to any new dentist the patient chooses, upon written request from the patient to do so.
- A statement of what the dentist expects of outstanding balances owed to the practice.
- Direct the patient to contact the Third District Dental Society to obtain names of dentists in the area to seek future care from.
- The date and signature of the dentist.
Always send the letter registered/certified with a return receipt requested.
Recordkeeping: Record the reason for terminating the patient in their record. A copy of the termination letter, register/certified receipt and
verification of receipt should be attached to the patient record.
Once you have terminated a patient, the dentist should no longer see that patient for any reason except for dental emergencies during the specified time.