Improving dental patient care and simultaneously reducing practice risk
Two worthy goals for any dental practice are to improve the quality of care delivered to patients and reduce the risk to the practice from unplanned or unforeseen occurrences, which could threaten the financial stability of the practice and the licensure of providers. Dr. Hugh Norsted explains one comprehensive approach dentists can consider, which is the accreditation program for ambulatory care provided by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC).
Two worthy goals for any dental practice are to improve the quality of care delivered to patients and reduce the risk to the practice from unplanned or unforeseen occurrences, which could threaten the financial stability of the practice and the licensure of providers.
Accreditation: Secure position of leadership in dental care
From an educational and financial standpoint, investment in the dental practice is the largest one dentists will make in their professional career. Putting that investment at risk due to lapses in policies and procedures and not maintaining professional practice guidelines can easily be avoided. Dentists need to know how their practice can stay abreast of what the current standards are for the ambulatory care environment. Certainly, there are a number of practice management consultants, continuing education programs, and online resources that address this question, but one comprehensive approach to consider is the accreditation program for ambulatory care provided by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC).
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Accreditation standards: Fully applicable to dental practices
Eighteen professional organizations — including the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Academy of Dental Group Practice (AADGP), and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) — constitute the AAAHC and together have developed national standards for practice in ambulatory care that directly apply to dental practices. The standards are reviewed annually and revised to reflect changes in health-care delivery and assist accredited organizations in remaining at the forefront of quality dental patient care.
The standards address core areas such as governance (where the “buck” stops), administration, clinical records, facility management, infection control and prevention, as well as patient and employee safety. Special emphasis is placed on the quality improvement efforts of the practice. Adjunct standards address anesthesia, surgery, use of pharmaceuticals, and diagnostic imaging — all key to dental practices.
Accreditation process: Collaborative and comprehensive
The program is peer-based, and the surveyors are knowledgeable dental professionals who provide a consultative assessment of how the practice measures up to AAAHC national standards. A full accreditation term is for three years, so the practice will have an on-site survey every three years to ensure that it’s compliant with current standards.
The broad range of standards act as the basis for a practice’s complete risk management program. They provide the framework and methods by which a dental practice owner can have confidence that the facility is meeting standards for safety and quality, and being positioned as a leader among dental peers.
Accreditation benefits: Advance quality patient care and protect dental practice
Rather than just tossing out the term “quality” in marketing materials, with no reference to support it, AAAHC accreditation demonstrates to current and prospective patients that a facility practices a high level of quality and safety endorsed by a national third party.
Accredited dental practices can assure patients that they are receiving optimal dental care, give employees the confidence in the care they provide, and offer owners the security that their major investment is being protected.
Hugh Norsted, DDS, is currently a surveyor for the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care and a dental consultant in quality improvement and assurance. Prior, he was a co-founder and dentist at Valley Dental Group in the Twin Cities area for 35 years.