Help with human resources is one call away

In April, Trevor Thorn, DDS, purchased his first solo practice in Sonora and within the first eight months had four of his eight employees go out on disability or maternity leave. Having little experience in handling the business side of a practice when dealing with human resources issues, Thorn picked up the phone and called CDA Practice Support to get up to speed on how to properly accommodate employees who are on disability.

"Opening a new practice and juggling employee issues is stressful, and it is nice having someone to call at CDA to ask questions that isn't going to cost you an arm and a leg," Thorn said.

Thorn, who is just in his third year of practicing dentistry after graduating from the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, said he called and received help from CDA Practice Support two or three times a week in the first couple of months of his practice opening. He has discussed what he can and can't say to employees who are out on disability, how long he had to hold their position while they were out and how to properly document all of it.

"You just have a lot of questions as a new business owner," Thorn said.

Thorn wanted advice on what his legal obligations were to the employees out on disability. CDA Practice Support analysts gave him the answers he needed and directed him to articles written by lawyers on the topic that are available on cda.org/practicesupport.

"They always get back to me the same day and they will keep trying to get in contact with me if I am busy at that time," Thorn said, referring to the practice analysts.

There are countless stories just like this of CDA members who regularly take advantage of CDA Practice Support for human resources issues. CDA Practice Support is an exclusive member benefit and includes hundreds of online resources geared toward the dentist who needs general support with running the business side of a practice. Resources are available on topics such as practice management, employment practices, dental benefit plans and regulatory compliance. In addition, members can contact a practice analyst over the phone or through email.

"CDA Practice Support is truly where smart dentists get smarter in terms of how to run their practice," said CDA President Walt Weber, DDS. "Running a business takes a lot of work and there are always new employment laws and regulations that dentists must stay up-to-date on. CDA Practice Support, in a way, can serve as your human resources office."

Jordan Shahnam, DMD, opened his practice in Carmel Valley in June. Juggling everything from getting to know the patients and the new staff to learning the practice's new systems, Shahnam said it was a real challenge at first. He called CDA Practice Support for information on hiring new employees, dental benefit plan fee changes, the new sick leave law, marketing and more.

"I think CDA probably offers some of the best practice resources of any dental association," Shahnam said. "The CDA Practice Support analysts are very professional. They answer every question you may have about your employees and the detailed aspects of practice management."

CDA Practice Support, which was created as a direct result of member-driven research and feedback, is intended to be an "extension of the dental office." CDA Practice Support offers a vast repository of more than 600 practice management resources, including fax forms for medical releases, consent forms, new patient forms and scripts on how to speak with a patient about their financial agreements. Since its launch in 2009, the number of calls/emails from members to CDA Practice Support has increased from 6,100 annually to more than 24,000 in 2015. Further, visits to CDA Practice Support's website, cda.org/practicesupport, have increased from 51,000 in 2009 to nearly 100,000 in 2015.

CDA Practice Support's website features information on what is trending in the areas of practice management, employment practices, dental benefit plans and regulatory compliance. Sample business plans are available to help detail and document a dentist's vision for his or her practice as well as step-by-step checklists for opening, transferring ownership of or closing a practice. Dentists can find information on how to place help-wanted ads, set meal breaks, establish alternative work schedules and terminate an employee.

CDA Practice Support always helps dentists move an HR issue to where they can get the most help. Sometimes that is with a TDIC risk management analyst. TDIC policyholders can speak to one of four TDIC risk management analysts who answer issues within four different lines of business including employment for eight different states. Employment topics can range from harassment and hostile work environment to hourly wages and unemployment.

The majority of calls to TDIC risk management analysts are related to management issues, such as employees coming in late for work, fighting amongst each other as well as termination and resignation.  Sometimes the topics cross from employment to professional liability coverage. For example, a dentist offers dental treatment to his staff as an added benefit of employment. Lines become blurred when that dentist wants to terminate the staff person who is in the middle of orthodontic treatment. 

TDIC offers coverage for dentists that will protect against allegations of a hostile work environment, discrimination disputes and wrongful termination. Many times these issues can be resolved with a phone call and getting a different perspective on the situation from someone trained on the topic.

"Being a little proactive is better for everybody, nobody wants to go through a lawsuit, and if there is a way to prevent issues before they get out of control, that is the road we want to take," said Carol McCutcheon, DDS, chair of claims and risk management for the TDIC board of directors.  

Over the last three decades, McCutcheon said dentists have had to learn to be more aware of employment issues as the laws have changed. Dentists want to do the best for their practices and their patients and there are resources available to help them do that.

"If you are by yourself and you don't have time to look up laws, it is just nice to have a partner to call and get advice from," McCutcheon said. "It is more important than ever to have these resources."

As an added benefit, TDIC policyholders get a 15-minute phone consultation, if needed, with an employment attorney at no charge. This service comes in handy should the issue the dentist is calling about escalate to the point that litigation is a possibility.  

To learn more about the services TDIC offers, visit thedentists.com.

For more information on CDA Practice Support, visit cda.org/practicesupport.

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