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Can patients detect hazardous dental practice? A patient complaint study

Nora Hiivala (Oral Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland)
Helena Mussalo-Rauhamaa (Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland and Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland, Helsinki, Finland)
Heikki Murtomaa (Department of Oral Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland)

International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance

ISSN: 0952-6862

Article publication date: 20 April 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to: determine the prevalence and distribution of patient/family-generated, dentistry-related complaints to Regional State Administrative Agencies (AVIs) and the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) in Finland from 2000 to 2011, study patient/family safety incident experiences and other reasons for complaints, assess complaint validity and evaluate factors associated with disciplinary processes against dentists.

Design/methodology/approach

Data included closed cases handled by AVIs and Valvira (2000-2011) against dental practitioners or dental practice units (n=782). The authors analysed the complaints distribution and examined the antecedent factors and circumstances.

Findings

This study demonstrated that patients/families can detect many dental treatment hazards, substandard processes and even serious safety risks rather well. The investigation processes revealed some physical harm or potential patient safety (PS) risks in more than half the alleged cases. Many complaints accumulated against certain individuals and statistically significant positive correlations were found between some patient/family complaints, dentist-specific variables and disciplinary actions.

Practical implications

Patient/family-generated complaints must be taken seriously and seen as relatively good safety risk indicators. However, more knowledge on how patients might cooperate with dental care providers to prevent errors is needed.

Originality/value

This work provides a unique opportunity to learn from several dentistry-related patient complaints. Despite some limitations, patient complaints appear to be useful as a complementary source together with other PS study methods.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support received from the: FINDOS Helsinki-Doctoral Programme in Oral Sciences (FINDOS); University of Helsinki, Medicine Fund Grant 2013; and Finnish Dental Society Apollonia 2014. The authors thank the Regional State Administrative Agencies (AVIs) and the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) for their co-operation.

Citation

Hiivala, N., Mussalo-Rauhamaa, H. and Murtomaa, H. (2015), "Can patients detect hazardous dental practice? A patient complaint study", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 274-287. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJHCQA-05-2014-0052

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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