Question

Q: After dismissing a patient from our practice, how long is the doctor required to provide
emergency care?

A: The answer can vary depending upon your state law and the PPO contract, if applicable. In some states, 15 days is adequate notice, while other states require a full 30 days. PPO contract requirements vary.

When terminating a relationship with a patient, the doctor should complete all treatment(s) in progress, such as root canal therapy, crown and bridge procedures, post-operative care following surgical procedures, etc. The patient must be notified in writing of the doctor’s decision to terminate the professional relationship. The letter should discuss:

  • Reason the practice has decided to end the doctor-patient relationship (e.g., repetitive broken appointments, refusal to accept treatment such as periodontal care, etc.).
  • Length of time the patient may receive emergency care (typically 15 to 30 days, but check the specifics of your state law and PPO contract).
  • Method for patient to locate another doctor (local dental society, referral service, etc.).
  • Procedure for patient to request a copy of her records (i.e., upon receipt of a signed request to release records to the new provider).
  • If the termination is a result of the patient not following through with treatment, include the consequences of not following through with said treatment.

Send the letter via certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of the letter and the receipt
showing the patient received the letter in the patient’s chart. Always check with your malpractice carrier and State Dental Board in developing your specific patient dismissal protocol.

See “Patient Dismissal” on pages 221-222 and pages 333-334 for examples of patient dismissal letters.