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Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Smile Center–San Antonio Settlement Reached

December 10, 2015 By Patrick Danner

The last of the one-time Smile Center dentists accused in lawsuits of performing “unnecessary” or “excessive” treatments on minors that were then billed to Medicaid have settled the cases. Four dentists this week reached confidential settlements with some 100 patients who had filed medical malpractice claims in Bexar County. “Since 2011, we have filed several lawsuits on behalf of more than 250 children against the Smile Center or former dentists of the Smile Center,” San Antonio attorney Thomas Crosley said. “With this court approval of these last five lawsuits against former Smile Center dentists, we now bring to a close these tragic cases.” He added the cases were settled “to the mutual satisfaction of all parties concerned.” The Smile Center gained notoriety four years ago when WOAI-TV aired a series of stories on the chain of six dental offices. Some of the stories included parents who complained about dental procedures that allegedly left their children in pain.

Read the rest of the story here 

Read one of the Lawsuits here.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Astroturfing by the Dental Support Organization Industry

clip_image002Dr. Michael W. Davis maintains a general dental practice in Santa Fe, NM. He serves as chairperson for Santa Fe District Dental Society Peer-Review. Dr. Davis also provides a fair amount of dental expert legal work for attorneys. He may be contacted via email: MWDavisDDS@comcast.net

“Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participant(s).”1. -Wikipedia 
Introduction
It is imperative the so-called “dental support organization industry” (DSO industry) employ astroturfing techniques, as their entire business model is formulated on gross misrepresentations.2-12 In order to obfuscate the rule of law relating to the unlicensed and unlawful practice of dentistry, these corporate entities must misrepresent themselves as only providing limited nonclinical support services for their chains of dental practices. This is patently false, and has been challenged by numbers of legal rulings and studies. In reality, DSOs either represent the true beneficial owners and clinical management for vast numbers of dental clinics, or they provide management for the private equity beneficial ownership. Doctors only serve in a limited role as facade nominee owners. The word “support” is intentionally designed to deceive. The lies go on.

Forms of DSO Astroturfing
There are four basic designs of astroturfing utilized by the DSO industry. At the most basic level is DSOs placing bogus positive patient reviews with online rating services or their website. The next astroturfing technique involves individual dentists who openly advocate for the DSO industry. The third method employs hired public relations and public advocacy specialists. The final level, and often most challenging to prove, is hired lobbyists who direct public policy through directly influencing government agencies and government elected officials. 

Bogus online Patient Reviews
Although this form of deceptive advertising is unlawful, violators are rarely discovered or sanctioned.13 The DSO utilizes existing employees or a retained service to generate positive patient reviews for dental services with online review sites, and/or their own website. Often the specific language utilized in the review is a tip-off, that the bogus reviewer is truly not a clinical dental patient, but working in the dental field. Certain DSOs have such a disturbingly high degree of employee turnover and negative staff retention rates, they now resort to posting bogus positive reviews of current or former employees on employment websites such as Glassdoor.com and Indeed.com. One will generally see multiple low rated “one-star” reviews, intermixed with over-the-top glowing “five-star” reviews. Obviously, corporate astroturfing is in play. 

Individual Dentists Espousing the DSO Agenda
On occasion, state legislatures will take up the cause of regulating and restricting the DSO industry to benefit the public interest. Bills will be presented to establish enhanced transparency in true beneficial clinic ownership. Clarification will be added to protect the doctor/patient relationship (contract), and patient rights such as the informed consent process, and always holding the patient’s interests paramount in clinical decisions. Truth in advertising and lending will be advocated. Mechanisms for bait-and-switch schemes will be discouraged.