Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Does the accreditation of private dental practices work? Time to rethink how accreditation can improve patient safety*

Gillian Jean
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

International Research Collaborative – Oral Health and Equity (IRC-OHE), The School of Human Sciences, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia. Email: gillian.jean@uwa.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH17085
Submitted: 27 March 2017  Accepted: 8 August 2017   Published online: 9 October 2017

Abstract

Accreditation to demonstrate engagement with the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (Standards) is compulsory for most hospital and healthcare settings, but to date remains voluntary for private dental practices (PDPs). The regulatory framework governing the dental profession lacks a proactive element to drive improvements in quality and safety of care, and an accreditation scheme can strengthen existing regulation. The current model of accreditation operating in accordance with the Australian Health Service Safety and Quality Accreditation Scheme (Scheme) is based on the Standards, which were written for a hospital model of healthcare service. The majority of PDPs are small office-based businesses with clear leadership structure and employing six staff or fewer. The Scheme is overly bureaucratic given the simplicity of the PDP business model. This article considers whether accreditation has a proven track record of improving quality of service and offers opinions about how a more appropriate safety management program for PDPs may look.

What is known about the topic? There has been minimal research about the impact of accreditation schemes in improving patient safety in PDP.

What does this paper add? This paper proposes a redesign of the Scheme to make it more relevant to PDPs. The paper offers strategies to minimise duplication of purpose between accreditation and existing legislation; and to strengthen critical elements of accreditation to improve effects on patient safety.

What are the implications for practitioners? A redesigned accreditation scheme will support dental practitioners to implement a quality assurance system with improved efficiency, reduced administrative burden, and optimised patient safety.

Additional keywords: dental error, National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards, patient protection.


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