Posted by Joanne Mellor
Unclear dental fees are at the top of the list of things patients complain about and could result in a loss of custom or bad press if practices do not address the issue.
This is a warning from the Dental Defence Union (DDU), which suggests a number of measures to avoid these outcomes.
As many complaints are the result of a breakdown in communication between practice and patient, this is a key factor which must be improved by dental surgeries in order to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction.
For example, common areas in which patients feel they are ill-informed include an assumption that treatment is being provided by the NHS rather than privately.
DDU dento-legal adviser, Leo Briggs, said: “Dental fees often feature in complaints reported to us by members. Reasons include that the cost of treatment was higher than expected, or anger about being charged for treatment which had not achieved the desired result, in the patient’s view.”
However, the DDU believes that these issues can be targeted if treatment plans and charges are clearly published in writing – such as in dental welcome packs – beforehand.
The DDU offers further tips to dental surgeries in order to reduce the number of fee-related complaints they encounter.
In addition to listing charges in welcome packs, prices should also be written clearly on a practice’s website. It is also important that surgeries state whether they accept NHS patients or not, the DDU states.
Provide written treatment plans for individual patients – including costs and whether or not private procedures will be incorporated. Be sure to retain a copy of this with patient records.
Furthermore, ensure that patients do not feel rushed into any treatment. Instead the DDU advises practices to consider a “cooling off period” so patients have the opportunity to reconsider costly decisions.
Finally, do not put pressure on patients to accept private treatment and be sure to be honest about procedures which are available on the NHS as well as privately.