Clinically based health outcomes are objective and often used as gold standards. Yet patient-reported outcomes represent firsthand feelings and perceptions about health that reflect what is most important to patients. Self-reports also are efficient and more cost-effective than clinical examinations or laboratory tests.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Patient-Reported Outcome Measurement Information System gives researchers and clinicians access to efficient, precise, valid, and responsive adult- and child-reported measures of health and well being. Yet there is no similar system specifically focused on oral health.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, aim to change that with the Patient-Reported Oral Health Outcomes Measurement Information System project. Recently, they began by conducting 4 English-language focus groups: 2 with children aged 8 to 12 (9 boys and 5 girls), and 2 with adolescents aged 13 to 17 (10 girls and 5 boys).
The subjects hailed from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic groups and were patients at different types of practices serving the Los Angeles area. The researchers used NVivo data analysis software from QSR International to analyze the transcripts of their sessions, focusing on word frequencies and content analysis to uncover key issues.
These sessions revealed 3 unique themes: understanding the value of maintaining good oral health throughout their lives with respect to longevity and quality of life into adulthood, positive associations between maintaining good oral health and interpersonal relationships, and the benefits of orthodontic treatment in terms of discomfort and self-image.
In addition to these perspectives, the study reinforced the importance of qualitative methods in the formative stages of developing oral health items. It also provided valuable information about core domains to target in developing survey items for children and adolescents in oral health screening, evaluation, management, assessment, and policy.