Adding an associate to a dental practice can bring a lot of positive benefits. But initially it can also add to the complexity of billing for the associate’s services when the practice is contracted with PPO’s.
For example, if the owning doctor is in-network with several PPO plans does the associate dentist also have to be in-network? It is typically okay to have multiple dentists in a practice, some of whom are in-network while others are out-of-network; however PPO plans typically pay based on the network status of the treating dentist.
An associate who provides treatment is considered the treating dentist while the owning doctor of the practice is the billing dentist. Therefore, if the associate dentist is out-of-network, any work performed by the associate will be paid as an out-of-network provider. This can come as a shock to unsuspecting patients, which is why it’s so important to either route all PPO patients to the in-network dentist in the practice or to have all dentists in the practice sign up for the same PPO plans.
Keep in mind that the treating dentist is also the one seeing hygiene patients for exams. This is another common mistake. If the associate dentist is out-of-network, you need to also make sure that the associate does not perform exams on in-network patients.
Just as it requires proper planning to find the right associate for your practice, it also requires additional thought to ensure that patients do not receive any unwelcome surprises. Make sure you remember the difference between treating and billing dentist and plan your schedule accordingly.