Updated Legal Reference Guide for California Dentists features all-CDA content

In their day-to-day practice, dentists and their teams must know and comply with federal, state and local laws — from the layered requirements of federal and state employment laws to the dentistry-specific California Dental Practice Act to local laws that enforce building codes. These laws address contracts, collections, truth in advertising, occupational health and safety and dental benefit plans among other topics. And as it is not uncommon for more than one law to apply in any given practice situation, dentists must be prepared to follow all applicable laws or face fines, potential lawsuits and other penalties.

A first resource for dentists to help them navigate these laws is the Legal Reference Guide for California Dentists. Updated and published in January by the CDA Practice Support experts, the guide is organized into chapters that cover (1) license and permit requirements, contracts, agreements, antitrust laws, office design and other practice considerations; (2) everything dentists need to know about the Dental Practice Act; (3) patient considerations related to treatment, communication, privacy and more; (4) dental benefit plans and collections; (5) policies, required notices and more related to employment law; and (6) workplace safety, environmental and radiation safety, prescriptions and HIPAA.

In one of several appendices, users will find in table format a helpful summary of each law or legal subject along with the name of the enforcing agency and any fees associated with legal compliance, while a second appendix provides a checklist of questions that should be asked when forming a group practice.

The guide is intended for dentists in every year or stage of practice, but CDA Regulatory Compliance Analyst Teresa Pichay says it “can be really useful to new dentists who are recently out of school and researching what is necessary to own a practice.” There are, for example, questions on choosing a business structure, leasing space, contracting with dental plans and selecting the appropriate insurance.

But the entire guide is searchable, making it easy for users to find Q&A’s on a particular subject.

“We’ve compiled the legal questions that you and your colleagues most frequently ask us about practice management and professional responsibility,” says Pichay. Added to the newly updated guide are questions pertaining to sick leave, space sharing and patient record keeping.

All content produced by CDA

Also new for the updated guide is a switch from content that was both produced by CDA and licensed from the ADA to content that was developed and published exclusively by CDA. The change is especially significant and beneficial for members, Pichay says, because it allows CDA to update the guide as the laws — especially state laws — change so that it always remains a current and highly relevant resource. Users will find revision dates for any Q&A’s that are updated in the future. Prior to the January 2018 update, the guide was last updated in 2014.

Excerpt from the guide

Q: Is there anything I’ll need to do to make my website accessible?

Complaints regarding website accessibility are becoming more common. There are a few steps that dental practices with websites can take to decrease the risk of a monetary demand or lawsuit. One strategy is to add an accessibility link to the website. This is language that tells individuals with disabilities how to seek help if they are unable to access something on the practice website. The language can instruct individuals to phone the office to have staff read content, provide transcripts of videos or assist them with filling out online forms. It is important to train staff on the language in the link and how to appropriately respond to inquiries. Another approach is to contact the website designer and ask if the practice website is accessible, and, if not, how they can make it accessible. The AwDA standards for website design are known as WCAG 2.0, levels A and AA. Be sure that the designer can speak to those standards. If you know the website is not accessible, take it down temporarily and replace it with a compliant site. Engage a qualified website designer who is familiar with the accessibility standards and be sure to address compliance with the accessibility standards contractually.

If the dental practice hired a certified access specialist to inspect your premises, that inspection did not necessarily include testing of your website’s accessibility. It might be a good idea to check the inspection report. If you’re considering hiring an access specialist, you should inquire whether the individual or firm will test your website for accessibility compliance.

‘Just a guide’ — if an important one

Although it is a good first reference for dentists, CDA Practice Support cautions dentists to treat the Legal Reference Guide for California Dentists as a basic, informational guide, as its title implies, and not as legal advice.

“Use this guide to conduct initial research for your situation,” Pichay says. “Even if your questions on whether you can or ‘should’ take a certain action are not satisfied, you will find the information useful when you meet with your attorney.”

Access the Legal Reference Guide for California Dentists.

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