Introducing high-cost health care to patients: dentists' accounts of offering dental implant treatment

Christopher Vernazza, Nikki Rousseau, Jimmy Steele, Janice Ellis, John Thomason, Jane Eastham, Catherine Exley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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The decision-making process within health care has been widely researched, with shared decision-making, where both patients and clinicians share technical and personal information, often being cited as the ideal model. To date, much of this research has focused on systems where patients receive their care and treatment free at the point of contact (either in government-funded schemes or in insurance-based schemes). Oral health care often involves patients making direct payments for their care and treatment, and less is known about how this payment affects the decision-making process. It is clear that patient characteristics influence decision-making, but previous evidence suggests that clinicians may assume characteristics rather than eliciting them directly. The aim was to explore the influences on how dentists' engaged in the decision-making process surrounding a high-cost item of health care, dental implant treatments (DITs).

A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was undertaken using a purposive sample of primary care dentists (n = 25). Thematic analysis was undertaken to reveal emerging key themes. Results There were differences in how dentists discussed and offered implants. Dentists made decisions about whether to offer implants based on business factors, professional and legal obligations and whether they perceived the patient to be motivated to have treatment and their ability to pay. There was evidence that assessment of these characteristics was often based on assumptions derived from elements such as the appearance of the patient, the state of the patient's mouth and demographic details. The data suggest that there is a conflict between three elements of acting as a healthcare professional: minimizing provision of unneeded treatment, trying to fully involve patients in shared decisions and acting as a business person with the potential for financial gain.

It might be expected that in the context of a high-cost healthcare intervention for which patients pay the bill themselves, that decision-making would be closer to an informed than a paternalistic model. Our research suggests that paternalistic decision-making is still practised and is influenced by assumptions about patient characteristics. Better tools and training may be required to support clinicians in this area of practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-85
Number of pages11
JournalCommunity Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology
Issue number1
Early online date29 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2015


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