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An unnecessarily vulnerable situation

14 July 2014
A patient raised a query about the amount she was asked to pay for her dental treatment. The receptionist, who was new to the practice, assured the patient that the charge was correct. The patient paid the account and left the practice...

The receptionist then recalculated the fee and found that the patient had been overcharged. Being relatively new to the practice, she thought it best not to discuss the error and chose to ignore it so as not to appear foolish in front of the rest of the team.

Some days later, the patient wrote to the practice and requested a breakdown of the charges. The itemised fees didn’t match those published on the practice website and in the practice literature.

Complaint of overcharging

The patient raised the matter with a local health and welfare board and complained about the overcharging. The practitioner only became aware of the situation when in turn the board wrote to him with the patient’s complaint. With the support and assistance of Dental Protection, the circumstances surrounding the new receptionist were explained to the patient, a refund was made and the matter was forgotten.

Learning Point:
A culture of openness and no-blame would have prevented a simple inquiry from escalating. The receptionist’s attempt at a cover-up was a reflection on her concern that she may be blamed for the error. There was no system in place at the practice for dealing with financial queries from patients and this had also placed the receptionist in a vulnerable situation.
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These case studies are based on real events and provided here as guidance. They do not constitute legal advice but are published to help members better understand how they might deal with certain situations. This is just one of the many benefits dental members enjoy as part of their subscription. 
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