Because technology changes rapidly, there is no sure-fire way to protect digital data and computer systems. If the idea of losing your practice due to hacking or employee error keeps you up at night, here are some tips to help you limit your cyber liability risk:
- Install, maintain and update security software and hardware.
- Encrypt your emails, servers and all portable devices.
- Make sure you have the latest versions of your software programs.
- Perform regular backups.
- Don’t open unsolicited web links.
- Use caution when opening attachments.
- Use passwords or physical locks to keep sensitive electronic data and physical files accessible only to those who need it to do their jobs.
- If you have employees that work off-site, limit the use of portable technology and provide a virtual private network (VPN) connection for access to company computers.
- Train employees on proper care and control of PHI and PII. Document processes and conduct regular training sessions as well as security audits to ensure staff compliance.
- Contract with an IT security services vendor.
Implementing certain policies and procedures can help minimize your risk for employment practices liability claims. To manage your practice’s risk, here are some tips to follow:
- Have an update-to-date employee handbook.
- Review it with the entire team regularly, and enforce the policies fairly and consistently.
- Do not promise what you cannot, will not, or may decide later, not to honor.
- Maintain detailed employee personnel files that include current copies of any professional licenses.
- Make sure to document verbal warnings and any discussions about job performance.
- Use the progressive discipline approach.
- Conduct annual performance reviews that are retained in the employee’s personnel file.
- Do not discuss employee issues with other employees.
- Document yearly OSHA and HIPAA trainings.
Patient satisfaction is a vital part of your practice. Patient dissatisfaction is a precursor of malpractice litigation. When you receive a complaint about care, how you handle the situation may impact a claim. All dental practices should have protocol in place to address patient complaints based upon the following recommendations:
- Identity one individual as the primary person to handle complaints.
- Conduct staff training.
- Be sure to convey concern and avoid being judgmental.
- Keep your written responses concise and simple.
- Maintain copies of correspondence and document conversations in the patient’s chart. Quote the patient when documenting their concerns.
- Call us for guidance. DBIC staff is available to assist dentists with handling complaints, forming responses, and determining potential malpractice.
- Do not document any contact with DBIC or your attorneys in the dental record.
- Maintain a written safety policy.
- Have ongoing safety and health training specific to each job including whenever new substances, processes, procedures or equipment are introduced to the workplace.
- Use protective barriers to prevent skin and mucous membrane exposure when any contact with blood or other body fluids is anticipated.
- Prevent punctures through the careful handling of needles, scalpels and other sharp objects which might penetrate the skin.
- Never recap, bend or break syringe needles.
- Always dispose of needles and other “sharps” in a puncture-resistant container. “Sharps” containers should be located near where they are used.
- Use safe lifting practices with heavy objects and equipment.
Good communication at the dentist’s office is essential. Federal disability discrimination laws include specific language regarding health care services and effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Health care providers have a duty to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure that communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing is as effective as communication with others. Such individuals may not always be “patients” of the health care provider. For example, a deaf parent of a hearing child may require an auxiliary aid or service to communicate effectively and give informed consent for the child’s medical treatment.
Auxiliary aids and services include equipment or services a person needs to access and understand aural information and to engage in effective communication. The rule includes qualified interpreters, computer-aided transcription services (also called CART), written materials, assistive listening devices, captioning, or other effective methods of making aural information and communication accessible.
A health care provider cannot charge a patient for the costs of providing auxiliary aids and services. In some situations, the cost of providing an auxiliary aid or service (e.g., a qualified interpreter) may exceed the charge to the patient for the health care service. A health care provider is expected to treat the costs of providing auxiliary aids and services as part of the overhead costs of operating a business. Accordingly, so long as the provision of the auxiliary aid or service does not impose an undue burden on the provider’s business, the provider is obligated to pay for the auxiliary aid or service. Even when an undue burden can be shown, the health care provider still has the duty to furnish an alternative auxiliary aid or service that would not result in an undue burden and, to the maximum extent possible, would ensure effective communication.
Records Retention: 9 years or age 21 – whichever is longer.
Statute of Limitations: Medical malpractice actions must be commenced within two years of the date the person discovers, or should have discovered, the existence of the cause of action. A minor injured by medical malpractice must file suit within two years plus one day of his or her eighteenth birthday, or within two years plus one day of the date of the minor’s marriage. (With court approval, a minor in Alaska can be married at the age of 14.) There is a seven (7) year statute of repose.
Records Retention: 8 years or age 21 – whichever is longer.
Statute of Limitations: Medical malpractice actions must be commenced within two (2) years from the date of injury. An injured minor must file suit within two years of his or her eighteenth birthday. There is no statute of repose due to case law.
Records Retention: 7 years
Statute of Limitations: Medical malpractice actions must be commenced within three (3) years from the reasonable date of discovery to a maximum of five years following the date of the act or omission giving rise to the claim. This rule applies to minors aged four years and older. In medical malpractice cases involving children under the age of four, the statute of limitations begins to run on the minor’s eighth birthday.
Records Retention: 7 years or age 25 – whichever is longer.
Statute of Limitations: Medical malpractice actions must be commenced within two (2) years from the date of the wrongful act or omission, or within two (2) years of the date the injury was or reasonably should have been discovered. No medical malpractice action may be filed more than five (5) years from the date of the act or omission giving rise to the injury, regardless of when the injury is discovered. Under Oregon law, the statute of limitations begins to run on a minor’s eighteenth birthday, but the five (5) year statute of repose remains applicable such that no claim may be filed more than five (5) years from the date of the act or omission giving rise to the injury.
Records Retention: 10 years or age 21 – whichever is longer.
Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations in medical malpractice actions is one (1) year following the date of the event or incident giving rise to the injury, or one (1) year from the date of the discovery of the injury, but in no event may a medical malpractice action be brought more than three (3) years after the date on which the negligent act or omission occurred except where there is fraudulent concealment on the part of the defendant. In the event of fraudulent concealment, a medical malpractice action must be commenced within one (1) year after discovery that the cause of action exists. For actions involving a foreign object which has been negligently left in a patient’s body, the action shall be commenced within one (1) year after the injury or wrongful act is discovered or should have been discovered. Under Tennessee law, the statute of limitations begins to run on a minor’s eighteenth birthday.