Efficiency in provision of private general dental services in Australia, 1983-1998

Objectives: To identify dentist- and practice-inputs that influence productivity in private general dental practice, and to describe trends in economic productivity as indexed by patients een per day (PPD), per dentist.

Methods: The project is based on established data from the Longitudinal Study of Dentists Practice Activity (LSDPA), in which Australian general practitioner dentists in private practice completed mailed questionnaires at 5 year intervals since 1983/84. Data collected included: demographic characteristics of the dentists (age, sex, country of birth), practice characteristics (legal form, size), work participation variables (patients/day, hours worked/day, weeks worked/year) and service provision (items, patient characteristics: age and sex). Bivariate analyses identified associations between each of the input factors and the productivity dependent variable PPD. Multivariate regression models were used to specify production functions: – the mathematical equation relating inputs to output (PPD). The production functions specified were representative of cross-sectional productivity estimates for each year of data collection, (1983, n=351; 1988, n=422; 1993, n=411; 1998, n=392) and longitudinal productivity estimates, across the period 1983-1998 (n=1565).

Results: Significant positive inputs for productivity when measured in PPD were: dentist hours per day chairside and number of surgeries used. Females saw significantly less PPD, and, while length of wait for an appointment and experience were significant positive factors, their effect was small.

Conclusion: Although a declining productivity trend was observed when output was measured in PPD, additional analyses are underway to determine if this trend in PPD is consistent with trends in other measures of productivity such as number of services, relative value units and gross billings.

S Mihailidis*, AJ Spencer

Presented at the Colgate Australian Clinical Dental Research Centre Research Day, 22 August 2003, Adelaide, Australia

Note: * indicates presenter

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