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Post-Op Handouts and Practice Guarantees

Just last week, I made the mistake of chiming in on a blog about “guaranteeing” your work. The only comment I made was that we have a written “warranty” on everything we do. The ripple effect of this was a storm of negative comments about how the ADA expressly prohibits any form of guarantee on dental work. About twenty negative posts later, I tried to explain what the law, the State Board Dental Practice Acts, and the ADA actually say. Yes, you can never or should never try to guarantee the “outcome” of a clinical procedure, but a warranty specifically does not do this. Instead, a warranty merely says that you will stand behind your work to the satisfaction of the patient. I know, some of these folks out there are crazy, but for over 37 years we have “warrantied” our work to the satisfaction of the patient: “If you are not happy with the results, or it fails within 5 years, we will replace it, or refund your investment 100%.” In one way we are saying that we won’t be happy unless you are happy.

With this in mind, let me switch gears a little. Part of a legal informed consent is a written and oral post-operative narrative for the patient following any clinical procedure. In our offices, we always had both the post-op instructions and the warranty on the same piece of paper. Each was color coded for a specific procedure and placed on a small 5 by 6 inch tablet/pad kept in the operatory and given out by the assistant or hygienist with the front being the post-op instructions and the back being the warranty. You could look at this several ways:

1. Internal Marketing: Standing behind everything you do.

2. External Marketing: Everything you do is marketing and if the patient takes this with them, they are likely to show or mention the fact that their dentist stands behind what they do. They might even add that you have consumer hours, take their insurance, love seeing their kids and the whole family, while offering the services you desire.

3. No Shows and Cancellations: The patient is required to do his/her part, as stated in the final sentence of the warranty. “This warranty is null and void if the patient does not maintain their 6 month continuing care cleaning appointments.”

4. Asset Protection: In a way, patients don’t sue people they like and respect. This type of warranty elevates you into that category with your patients. It is a step beyond where most dentists are willing to go. By following through with adequate post-op instructions on every procedure and with every patient, you secure your informed consent as far as the State Board is concerned. You have capped off the standard of care in treating patients.

Like most things, success is in the details. Dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s” is what makes us different from the other dentist(s) down the street.

Michael Abernathy, DDS
[email protected]