Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Scarlett Letter

Hey all,

I want to thank you all for commenting on Friday's blog. I truly appreciate your support and your translucency. I know I have said this a billion times, but I write to make you all feel less alone. This time, you all made me feel less alone.

I am still not over everything that is going on in my life so, let's talk about this a minute.

I have been a dentist for 15 and a half years. I have been paying for insurance for the entire time. Now, I am talking about malpractice insurance and general insurance. If someone slips on a wet spot on your floors and gets hurt, your general office insurance will take care of it. So why do I get all bent out of shape when someone brings a complaint to me?

Most of your comments were, "You are a good guy, don't worry about this a bit." I wish it were that easy. I know I should just say to them, "Talk to my people."
And I would if it weren't for that one question...

"Have you ever had a claim against you?"

It is everywhere. Every time you fill out any sort of dental application, any insurance form. I liken it to being arrested. Let's say you get arrested, then forever you have to answer the question, "Have you ever been arrested?"

Or, God forbid, you have been convicted of a felony (I haven't, but I sure have done enough stuff to know that I have been damn lucky). That stuff never leaves you. They don't ask if you were acquitted. They want to know anything about it. They just want to put you in this one "arrested" box.

So we are back to the question above. They don't ask you if the person that put a claim against you is a crazy lady. Or the guy that was coming after you is a vindictive man with anger issues. They don't care if you had to pay $1 or $3million. They put in you in this box and you are there forever. This is a box that I don't ever want to be in.

My father had a patient that he tried like mad to please. He did everything he could for her, and she was never happy. After countless appointments, he said, "I just can't help you anymore."

She got an attorney and went after him. He was 62 at the time, and he said, "You know what? I don't care anymore. I have been paying this malpractice insurance for 32 years and have never used it."

So he told her to talk to his insurance, and she did. Now, it is going to behoove the insurance company to just pay the plaintiff. I mean, before they hear anything, they know that if it goes to court it is going to cost them X. So if the settlement is less than X, why fight it?

Principle goes out the window. They don't care if they think they will win or not. They don't care if the doctor's name gets smeared all over the place. It is all about the Benjamins. This is a real problem. If they take a couple of these gold diggers to court and the court tells them to get lost, then the gold diggers will stop going down this path.

And I am going through a bit of the same thing. What if it is going to cost me $2,000 for her emergency room bills? Write it off as the cost of doing business.
Isn't that worth it to me and my stomach to not drag this out?

Just pay her, I won't have to check the "claims against you" box, and then I can sleep again (I am really sleeping okay). I have put this out of my mind; I haven't heard from them in about a week.

In the comments, some of you wrote to tell her to take a flying leap. That would be fine - if that would end it. But it wouldn't. She would go straight to an attorney and then all hell would break loose. I think she will still go an attorney and he will probably laugh at her. But all it takes is one attorney, who probably doesn't have anything to do right now, to decide to take a fishing trip into my records.

In closing, I think it is silly to think that, in this litigious world that we live in, we are not going to have to go through this. It is silly to think that we are going to go through life and not have to check this box. Physicians go through it and there is no scarlet letter. I remember in dental school one particular instructor told us that half of us were going to be sued in the first three years of practice. I thought he was crazy, but if you talk to enough dentists, they have all gone through it. If not peer review, then a settlement or a full-blown, knock-out fight in court. So many people have gone through it.

Another dentist called me because she had heard something was up and she said, while I was telling her about this issue, she is going through it with someone right now (and she is an LVI-accredited dentist).

I know this stuff happens and it must get easier as I get older. Because we learn, as we grow as professionals, that crap is going to happen. We just have to learn how to handle the crap better.

What do you think? Anyone wearing the "C" for claim on there scrub top?

I will talk to you on Friday,


Anonymous said...

If the patient requests a refund in writing, you still are required to register the refund even if there has been no legal action. I am, however a firm believer in saving stomach lining and decreasing cortisol production. It is not worth the waste of time to deal with a legal hassle to uphold a principle. Life is way too short for that. A patient who files frivolous suits will not change because you stood up to them. They will just try again. Sooner or later they hit the jackpot like Vegas (intermittant reinforcement is strongest reward for continuing behavior) and will file more suits. Why should you lose those months of time and the enjoyment of more for a loser like that? Grit your teeth and pay to get rid of the loser. I have done this to the tune of $8,000 and it was worth every penny. Sent her to a world renowned specialist who 2 years later is still trying to get a decent result. Believe it or not, the patient wrote me a letter a year later saying I was so nice to her, better than anyone since, so sympathetic and really cared. She did not, however return the money! :-}

Anonymous said...

Do not refund any money. The patient might still ask for more at a later date. Let your malpractice insurance provider handle this one. I had to deal with a malpractice claim. The patient also lodged a complaint against me with my regulatory body. My regulatory body found me innocent of all charges in the complaint but I could not stomach the idea of a trial to deal with the civil suit. A settlement was negotiated. It took 5 and a half years but you will never find it on the internet, not any mention of the complaint or the financial settlement. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

This question highlights the difference between dentists and physicians. MDs check this box early and often and are quite experienced with getting their malpractice carrier involved. This is why they pay such high premiums. Perhaps it would help to try to envision yourself more like a medical doctor, one exposed to medical malpractice, and allow your insurance company to take care of the details.

Dental Assistant Salary said...

I had never experiences such kind of situation till now and thanks to God for it..


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