A new study evaluating the outcome of orthodontic treatment in three different practice-management modalities found that patients in all three groups studied ? patients from three traditional private practices, an office managed by a dental management service organization, and two orthodontic offices from a health maintenance organization (HMO) in California, Western Dental Services, Inc., ? were treated to a high standard, and that the percentage of improvement following treatment was similar in all three groups.
The article, Treatment outcomes in 3 modes of orthodontic practice, was recently published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics (February 2002, Volume 121, Number 2). The study, conducted by a respected author of numerous articles on orthodontic care, was supported by an award from the American Association of Orthodontists Foundation, and the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry.
During the course of the study, pre- and post-treatment study models from patients in each practice modality were evaluated by a panel of four orthodontists using two widely-recognized measures of malocclusion: the Handicapping Labiolingual Index Deviation, or HLD, and the Peer Assessment Rating (PAR) system. Compared to 81 patients from the private practices and 36 patients from the dental management service organization, 53 patients from the HMO group were found to have more severe malocclusion at the start of treatment. After adjusting for this factor, post-treatment differences among patients treated at the three practice types were noted to be minimal and non-significant, and cases in all three practice-management modalities were found to have been treated to a high standard. While the authors were careful to point out that they sampled selected cases from only a limited number of offices from each practice-management modality, the article is noteworthy in that it is the first to investigate the quality of orthodontic treatment provided at these three different business models.
"I find it significant that this is the first study of its kind to demonstrate that Western Dental Services has delivered quality orthodontic care to its patients, and our routine practice of taking both pre-treatment and end-of-treatment study casts permits such an evaluation of the quality of our care," said David L. Forney, Director of Quality Assurance Management Systems (QAMS) for Western Dental.
"Our patients have long been attracted by Western Dental's affordable prices, and now they also can be confident in knowing that the quality of treatment they are receiving has been shown to be at a high standard. We are happy to have participated in the study and hope that it will enhance the public's perceptions about orthodontics at Western Dental," Forney said.
Kazu Takaki, D.D.S., Chief Dental Director, Quality Management, for Western Dental, also noted that dental health maintenance organizations in general often treat patients who have very severe malocclusions. By their nature, those malocclusions sometimes require more intensive and prolonged treatment. In such cases, he noted, it is especially important that the care rendered be of the highest quality by providers who have considerable experience with difficult cases. Many of Western Dental's orthodontists are graduates of nationally-recognized orthodontic programs at Columbia University, the University of Southern California (USC), and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
Forney added that, four years ago, Western Dental developed one of the most comprehensive dental quality assurance management systems of its kind to assure patients that the care they are receiving is of the highest caliber. "Our QAMS system utilizes state-of-the-art computerized software and auditing tools to evaluate the care provided by each of our offices. Care is monitored from the moment a patient walks in the office until the moment he or she leaves," he said.