Background: Delivering improvements in quality is a key objective within most healthcare systems, and a view which has been widely embraced within the NHS in the United Kingdom. Within the NHS, quality is evaluated across three key dimensions: clinical effectiveness, safety and patient experience, with the latter modelled on the Picker Principles of Patient-Centred Care (PCC). Quality improvement is an important feature of the current dental contract reforms in England, with "patient experience" likely to have a central role in the evaluation of quality. An understanding and appreciation of the evidence underpinning PCC within dentistry is highly relevant if we are to use this as a measure of quality in general dental practice.
Methods: A systematic review of the literature was undertaken to identify the features of PCC relevant to dentistry and ascertain the current research evidence base underpinning its use as a measure of quality within general dental practice.
Results: Three papers were identified which met the inclusion criteria and demonstrated the use of primary research to provide an understanding of the key features of PCC within dentistry. None of the papers identified were based in general dental practice and none of the three studies sought the views of patients. Some distinct differences were noted between the key features of PCC reported within the dental literature and those developed within the NHS Patient Experience Framework.
Conclusions: This systematic review reveals a lack of understanding of PCC within dentistry, and in particular general dental practice. There is currently a poor evidence base to support the use of the current patient reported outcome measures as indicators of patient-centredness. Further research is necessary to understand the important features of PCC in dentistry and patients' views should be central to this research.