Late-reported claims are becoming more common, but they don’t have to be more stressful
14 April 2023
There is a growing trend for late-reported dental claims. Fewer than 25% now occur within 12 months of treatment but, in some cases, we are talking many years before a patient will pursue a matter, if they believe the care they received in the past was inappropriate or inadequate.[i]
An increase in late claims
Receiving notice of a complaint or claim is never nice, but if a significant length of time has passed since the work was completed, you could feel you have far more to lose, in terms of your reputation and finances. Perhaps your focus isn’t in that area of dentistry anymore, or you have since retired. Imagine the stress of dealing with a claim, when you were enjoying the fruits of a happy and successful career.
Dental professionals must, however, accept the risk of late claims, and this becomes easier when we understand why they are becoming more frequent. One key factor is a change in patient behaviour. If people are experiencing unexpected symptoms, they are increasingly confident about challenging the decisions made by a dentist and/or other dental professional, even if they were made a long time ago. Thanks to the internet, people can access vast amounts of information and do their own research. Their conclusion may be that the care they received in the past fell short and has led to a deterioration in their oral health, and a need for further treatment.
Missed and mismanaged disease
One of the top-five reasons for a dental claim, and particularly common in those that are late-reported, are allegations of periodontal disease that was undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or mismanaged.[ii] These cases illustrate very well why late-reported dental claims can be so complex.
Periodontitis can progress relatively slowly, but if it isn’t intercepted and treated early, it may lead to tooth loss. Multiple teeth can be compromised and restorative applications fail. A patient may allege a number of things, such as suggesting a clinician didn’t carry out a basic periodontal examination, or that they weren’t told about their risk of the disease and what they could have done to reduce it. Others may allege they were unaware of the existence of periodontitis, and how it differs from gingivitis. They could question both the standard of clinical assessment, and the information and advice they were given. Multiple members of the team may be named in the claim, which will consider how much knowledge and training for periodontal disease management each had during the period when, it is alleged, the care they delivered was inadequate.
Every dentist’s and dental professional’s indemnity must be robust and broad, without grey areas to cause confusion. This is especially pertinent in the modern age, where more patients are taking the initiative to seek recompense for work completed previously. Plus, there are law firms actively pursuing them, specifically targeting potentially lucrative late claims.
Protection is key
Protect yourself with a policy from a specialist provider, who doesn’t just understand insurance, but also the unique challenges faced by those who deliver dentistry in a rapidly-changing world. Run-off cover indemnifies you against a claim made for work you did in the past, whether you are still practising or not. Should this scenario occur, with run-off cover, the impact to your finances can be minimised – as well as to your stress levels!
The trend for late-reported claims means you need a long-lasting safety net in place, for peace of mind. Specialist dental indemnity provider Howden offers strong, contract-based cover for dentists as well as other dental professionals and practices. Ten-year run off is built into its policies as standard, making it easy to seamlessly switch, knowing there are no gaps in your protection. You will enjoy other benefits too, including competitive pricing, a medico-legal and mental health helpline, available 24-7 and, above all, a sense of confidence that comes with knowing that you are being well looked-after.
If a patient is experiencing something that doesn’t feel, or look quite right, or symptoms that are unexplained, they are no longer going to suffer in silence. Their expectations are that, even care delivered many years ago will still meet their expectations of keeping them in good oral health. Late-reported claims can be, by their very nature, complex and time-consuming, so ensure your indemnity is fit for the modern world, and offers protection for your professional past, as well as present and future.
[i] BDA. BDA Advice, Professional Indemnity. Found at: https://bda.org/advice (accessed January 2023).
[ii] Top five reasons for dental claims: periodontal disease. Dentistry.co.uk, 15/05/2019. Link: https://dentistry.co.uk/2019/05/15/top-five-reasons-dental-claims-periodontal-disease/ accessed February 2023.