The design, implementation and evaluation of a management information system for public dental services
Barrie, Robert Brian
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In order to manage public dental services, information is required about what work is being performed by the staff at the various clinics. Tally sheets have been used in the past to record treatment procedures but this is not an effective method of recording the amount of work done by staff at public dental clinics. But tally sheets are inaccurate, open to abuse, and fail to provide the necessary information for managers. Nor is it of any real value for providing feedback to staff on their performance. This inhibits a core aspect of job satisfaction for the staff, which is feedback. The staff just persevere, continue doing the same thing and feel frustrated. This contributes to poor work performance. Instead of using a tally sheet, 4 digit treatment codes are used for all treatment procedures (as used in the private sector for billing purposes) and additional codes were developed for services such as brushing programmes for which billing codes do not exist. These are recorded for each patient, together with a code for the patient category. A relative value unit (RVU) has been developed for each treatment code that has been weighted according to policy guidelines and the amount of time and effort required to provide the service. This was done for clinical treatment procedures as well as for community-based preventive activities. A computer program has been developed that captures the treatment codes which are saved in a number of databases that are linked to Excel pivot tables. The data can therefore be easily manipulated by the user to obtain the required information in the form of counts of procedures, monetary cost of the same clinical services in the private sector (useful with the proposed advent of National Health Insurance) and also in the form of relative value units. iii This is available for the current reporting period as well as for previous periods, allowing a detailed analysis of services rendered and staff performance over a period of time to show trends. Use is also made of an Objectives Matrix where the performance of each staff member can be measured according to seven objectives (Key Performance Areas) (five in the case of oral hygienists) to produce an overall Performance Index – which is a score out of ten. This enables performance appraisal to be carried out much easier than by comparing performance based on a number of diverse treatments provided. The data for all the public dental clinics in the Western Cape Province has been analysed for the period 1994 to 2012 using this system, and it has been shown that the system is sensitive enough to highlight problem areas as well as provide a balanced overall view of the service, as measured by a number of variables. The system is “low tech” in that it runs on a “stand alone” personal computer, but it could easily be applied to an integrated, networked information system provided the latter contained the treatment codes, and certain other patient, staff and clinic identifiers. It is therefore suitable for developing countries, such as South Africa, that may later develop a comprehensive Health Information System based on an electronic medical record. The emphasis is not on the information technology, it is focussed on the concepts behind the processing of the data into meaningful information for managing public dental services.