Helpful Tips and Information
Help your practice succeed while providing safe and quality dental care to the citizens of Washington state. The following information will provide you valuable tips, links and articles about dental laws and subjects of common complaints.
The commission encourages practitioners to review and consider the following helpful tips and suggestions.
- Confidentiality and Patient Privacy
Did you know HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights regulates and enforces the HIPAA privacy rule. The HIPAA Privacy Rule (PDF) provides federal protections for individually identifiable health information held by covered entities and their business associates. It gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the privacy rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.
Chapter 70.02 RCW governs the use and release of patient records. A healthcare provider must respond to a request for records no later than 15 working days after receiving the request.
- License – Renew – Display
You must have an active credential to provide dental services in Washington State. This includes dental supportive personnel.
- Want to have a working interview? All individuals must hold an active credential to provide care to patients.
- Dentists are responsible to ensure they do not delegate tasks to supportive personnel without active credentials.
- Dentists are required to be licensed.
- Dental hygienists are required to be licensed.
- Expanded function dental auxiliaries are required to be licensed.
- Dental assistants are required to be registered. (Sterilization technicians are considered dental assistants and must be registered.)
- Dental anesthesia assistants are required to be certified.
Renew – on time
Don't let your credential expire. Make sure we have your renewal before the credential expires. Otherwise, you won't be allowed to practice. A timely postmark on your renewal will not prevent an expired credential. If we receive your renewal after your credential has expired, you'll be charged a late fee.
We mail courtesy renewal notices about two months before your credential expires. Renewals sent by mail take about two weeks to process.
Renew Online: To renew online you must register with Secure Access Washington and sign in to the Department of Health Online Services. Go to the Secure Access Washington (SAW) website. Here is a link to online renewal frequently asked questions.
If you're having problems with the Department of Health Online Services site, contact our Customer Service Office by email or by phone at 360-236-4700.
Is your license displayed? WAC 246-817-301 requires your license to be displayed in a place visible to individuals receiving services. All credentials need to be displayed including those belonging to dental hygienists, dental assistants, expanded function dental auxiliaries and dental anesthesia assistants.
- Ten Things You Can Do
As practitioners you can play a big part in reducing the types of complaints filed. The Dental Quality Assurance Commission (commission) encourages practitioners to review and consider the following suggestions:
- Analyze Your Communication Style: Practitioners who receive multiple complaints may need to do some serious self-assessment. Could these complaints be reduced by improving communications? Can the “patient” be wrong in so many cases? Is there something in your manner or demeanor with patients that is upsetting them? Do you really listen and address their questions and concerns?
- Communication: Maintain open and honest communication with your patients. Many of the complaints received by the commission are simply the result of poor communication rather than quality of care issues. Educate your staff on the importance of good personal relations with your patients. A little extra time and effort upfront may eliminate costly and time consuming responses to complaint allegations down the line.
- Records Release: Many inquiries and written complaints on this topic are received each month. Become familiar with the law related to release of patient records. Patients are entitled to copies of their records upon written request and there are timeframes with which those requests must be responded to. Failure to respond in a timely manner could result in disciplinary action.
- Know The Law: Become familiar with the dental law. Laws are located on our Laws webpage.
- Address Changes: In order to serve you better, we must have your current mailing address in our system. This is especially important because we mail your courtesy renewal notice and updated credential to the address on file. The U.S. Postal Service does not forward Department of Health mail so it is your responsibility to inform the Customer Service Office of an address change.
We cannot accept contact information updates over the phone.
If your contact information isn't current in our system, please complete and submit the contact information change form. If you have questions, feel free to contact our staff.
- Annual Renewal: Make sure to keep your dental license renewed annually (on or before birthday) and posted in a location visible to the public. Also, check that other licenses, i.e., X-ray equipment, business licenses and the licenses of your auxiliary personnel (dental hygienists, dental assistants, expanded function dental auxiliaries, and dental anesthesia assistants) are also current and updated as required. As the licensed practitioner you are responsible to ensure these items are up to date. Do not confuse payment of your professional license renewal fee to the Department of Health with payment of Washington State Dental Association (WSDA) membership dues.
- Advertising: Review the law pertinent to advertising. Make sure to include your name in the advertisement. Make sure wording or costs listed in advertisement does not misrepresent services or mislead the public. Patients biggest complaints have to do with feeling "mislead".
- Billing/Insurance: Make sure patients clearly understand the procedures you are performing and the costs associated with those services. Patients often complain that they did not authorize services or that they were not clearly informed of their financial responsibility for services. If you offer to coordinate insurance benefits, follow through. Inform the patient of any limitations, discrepancies or service limits.
- Prescribing: Become knowledgeable on the laws related to prescribing. Dentists are authorized by law to prescribe only for the practice of dentistry. Familiarize yourself with the law regarding prescribing, dispensing or distributing controlled substances or legend drugs. Know when drug inventory and distribution logs must be kept.
- Call For Assistance: Department staff are available to provide you with technical assistance related to the licensure, renewal and adjudicative processes. There may be times when we cannot answer specific questions, but we will make every effort to provide you with suggestions or other sources that may be able to help you.