Dental care plan assessment using the CAHPS Dental Plan Survey


Prof. James D. Bader, Department of Operative Dentistry, University of North Carolina, CB# 7450, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-7450. Tel.: 919-966-5727; e-mail: James D. Bader and Daniel A. Shugars are with the Department of Operative Dentistry, University of North Carolina.


Objectives: The performance of a recently developed survey instrument that inquires about patients' experiences with the receipt of dental care was examined to evaluate its potential utility as a patient-reported outcome measure for dental care plans.

Methods: Individuals with dental insurance (n = 1,216) were surveyed using the Consumer Assessment of Health Care Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Dental Plan Survey. The instrument's pre-established composite and rating scores were compared across dental insurance carriers (6 most common and all others combined) using ANOVA. In addition, each score was analyzed separately using multivariate regression with respondent and plan characteristics as independent variables.

Results: There was significant differentiation among dental insurance carriers for three of the six scores (dental care composite, access to care composite, and dentist rating). Several respondent characteristics were associated with higher scores, including age, race, income level, and oral health self-rating. Having a choice of dental plans, and years with one's dental plan were associated with higher dental plan ratings, while having to find a new dentist to use the plan tended to lower all scores except the cost and services composite.

Conclusions: The results reported here reflect differences among dental insurance carriers, rather than among the many different dental plans offered by those carriers. Nevertheless, the CAHPS instrument scores reflected differences among patients' experiences (composite scores) and ratings (rating scores) across carriers, suggesting both that the instrument should be a useful tool for assessing patient-reported outcomes, and that comparisons of these outcomes should control for respondent characteristics as well as specific plan characteristics.