Dentists and Dental Hygienists Beware: Know Who Actually Owns Your Clinic
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Florida has long been a state that does not prohibit the corporate practice of medicine, unlike many other states. However, it does prohibit the corporate practice of dentistry. The key provision in Florida law that establishes this is Section 466.028, Florida Statutes, but the Florida Board of Dentistry has adopted administrative rules on this topic as well.
What this means is that any corporation (or other type of business entity) that owns or operates a dental practice, under Florida law, must be one solely owned by and controlled by dentists. In this context, the term “dentists” means those licensed to practice dentistry in the state of Florida with an active license. Someone licensed in another state or who has a suspended or revoked license in Florida would not meet that requirement.
Dentists Entering into Certain Types of Contracts Need to Be Sure That They Comply with the Law.
There may be certain types of contracts and agreements that a dentist or dental practice may legally enter into, especially ones that would provide administrative services or other types of non-professional services to the dentist. These might include for example, payroll services, staffing services (except for professional staff such as dental technicians), billing and collection’s services (provided the dentist retains final authority over such matters), marketing services, equipment leases (provided the dentist retains all control over the equipment), office leases, management services, or combinations of the above.
However, since any of these types of agreements may be worded so as to violate the law, a dentist should always have such an agreement reviewed in advance by his or her own experienced health attorney. The dentist entering into any such contract must make sure he or she complies fully with the law.
Section 466.028(1)(kk), Florida Statutes, states that it is unlawful for any non-dentists, including any professional corporation or business entity owned and operated by non-dentists, to influence or interfere with the professional judgment of the dentists.
Therefore, any contractual agreement entered into should not prohibit the dentist from exercising his or her own professional judgment at all times in treating patients.
Acts Prohibited by Law.
Acts specifically prohibited by the law include, allowing non-dentists or a business entity owned by non-dentists to:
(1) Employ a dentist or dental hygienist in the operation of a dental office;
(2) Control the use of any dental equipment or material while such equipment or material is being used for the provision of any dental services;
(3) Direct, control or interfere with a dentist’s clinical judgment; and specifically,
(4) Allowing any non-dentist or organization owned by a non-dentist to exercise control over:
(a) The selection of a course of treatment for a patient, the procedures or materials to be used as part of such course of treatment, and the manner in which such course of treatment is carried out by the dentist;
(b) The patient records of a dentist;
(c) Policies and decisions relating to pricing, credit, refunds, warranties and advertising; and
(d) Decisions relating to office personnel and hours of practice.
Violation of this Law is a Felony.
Any of these acts can result in disciplinary action against any licensed dental professional involved. More importantly, violation of this law is a felony which may result in criminal prosecution for any person involved. Consequently, contracts which violate the law are null and void.
Always have any contracts relating to the operation of your dental practice reviewed by an experienced board certified health lawyer before signing it. To read more on this topic, read one of our past blogs here.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Dentists.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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