Be Cautious when Referring Patients to Side Businesses

Thursday, Jul 23, 2015

CDA has been made aware that an imaging company in Southern California is emailing dentists to offer a "bundle deal" on CT scans for patients. Purchasing such a package may be a violation of the Dental Practice Act because it would allow a profit on a referral.

Dentists who own a side business, such as an imaging company, also need to be cautious and make sure they stay in compliance with the Dental Practice Act. The Dental Practice Act prohibits referrals for "diagnostic imagining goods or services if the licensee or his or her immediate family has a financial interest with the person or in the entity that receives the referral."

There are two ways a dentist can offer imaging services to patients: either within the walls of his or her office or if there is a personal service arrangement in place that meets certain requirements. If either of these exceptions are not made and the dentist refers out to an imaging company that he or she has a financial interest in, it becomes a self-referral and it is prohibited.

The exceptions are:

1. If the services are performed within the dental office. The prohibition of Section 650.01 shall not apply to any service for a specific patient that is performed within, or goods that are supplied by, a licensee's office or the office of a group practice.

2. A personal services arrangement has been established. If there is an arrangement, it must be in writing, specify all of the services to be performed, and the compensation to be paid must be set in advance, not exceed the fair market value and not be determined in a manner that takes into account the volume or value of referrals.

Under either of the above exceptions, the dentist must disclose the financial interest to the patient, or the parent or legal guardian of the patient, in writing at the time of the referral or request for consultation. This includes, in the case of a personal services arrangement, information on where a person may go to file a complaint against the dentist or the immediate family member of the dentist.

Dentists who fail to follow these requirements could face a misdemeanor violation or civil penalties up to $5,000 per patient.

CDA's Guide to California Dental Practice Act Compliance is available on cda.org/practicesupport. The guide is intended for use by dentists and allied dental health professionals to assist them in complying with the California Dental Practice Act. Information on this subject begins on page 44 of the guide.

Consider attending Harbor Dental Society's CE Program OSHA, Infection Control and California Dental Practice Act to meet your California requirements for license renewal and Cal OSHA as well as staying updated on how to remain in compliance to avoid serious fines and penalties.

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