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Managing the Regulatory Environment

Managing the Regulatory Environment | Introduction
What it Means and Why It Matters
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Adherence to current regulations and guidelines is one of the most challenging aspects of running a dental practice, especially since it requires dealing with so many different agencies. Being knowledgeable about current regulations and working towards compliance are critical steps for practices to achieve both a safe dental office and peace of mind.

The regulations imposed upon the healthcare industry are intended to make every treatment environment a safe one. By following regulations, you and all other healthcare workers demonstrate and reaffirm your commitment to providing patients, team members and the broader community with a safe environment. The American Dental Association’s (ADA) Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct addresses regulatory compliance in its discussions of ensuring that every dentist practices in an ethical manner and in accordance with the standards of practice to date. Another benefit to following the regulations is that doing so may minimize your potential liability from any adverse outcomes.

Following all applicable regulations and guidelines in your dental practice can also protect your dental practice as a business. Today’s dental patients expect certain precautions to be in place and, while they may not comment about it, they notice when a practice consistently follows protocols designed to protect everyone. They also notice when a dental office doesn’t comply, especially since those types of violations typically receive a great deal of publicity. While a patient might not comment about any perceived oversights personally to you or someone on your staff, they may opt to seek care elsewhere just as a precaution. Or they may opt to file a report that alleges the failure to follow certain protocols with the appropriate regulatory agency.

Keep in mind that regulations can and do change and that you have a legal and ethical responsibility to remain aware of any changes. Also remember that state and local regulations may differ from those issued by federal agencies and can also change. It’s up to you to be aware of all regulations at each level that may apply to your practice. In cases where there might be differences between federal, state and local regulations, it’s always a good rule of thumb to adhere to the most stringent requirements.

Because regulations change, regulatory compliance requires that you educate and train the members of your team regularly and that you demonstrate that all compliance activities and protocols have been consistently monitored and logged. Make sure that any staff training or compliance support is conducted by someone who is knowledgeable and credible about the topic. In certain situations, it may also be helpful to seek legal advice from a qualified attorney.

While some practices assign a team member the responsibility for ensuring compliance, remember that you, as the leader of the team and owner of the practice, are ultimately responsible. Safeguard your practice and yourself by carefully documenting all practice activities that relate to regulatory compliance. Failure to provide documentation during an audit could put the practice at risk.

Finally, following regulations is the right thing to do, for everyone.

The content contained in the Managing the Regulatory Environment module of the American Dental Association’s Guidelines for Practice SuccessTM (GPSTM) provides general information about regulations issued by several federal agencies that are charged with ensuring that dental treatment is provided in a safe facility, that dental healthcare workers work in safe environments, and that the dental practice is managed and operated in a way that is not harmful to others or the environment. The module also includes original resources, such as checklists and tip sheets that were created specifically for this project and designed to help ADA members comply with the appropriate federal regulations.

As this resource was finalized in the first part of 2017, the new presidential administration had indicated it would seek to aggressively revise the regulatory landscape. Thus, while we believe that this snapshot will be useful to dentists, you should continue to pay attention as laws, rules, regulations and enforcement priorities shift. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR)