BMC Health Services Research
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Background: As part of their mandate to protect the public, dental regulatory authorities (DRA) in Canada are responsible for investigating complaints made by members of the public. To gain an understanding of the nature of and trends in complaints made to the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO), Canada’s largest DRA, a coding taxonomy was developed for systematic analysis of complaints. Methods: The taxonomy was developed through a two-pronged approach. First, the research team searched for existing complaints frameworks and integrated data from a variety of sources to ensure applicability to the dental context in terms of the generated items/complaint codes in the taxonomy. Second, an anonymized sample of complaint letters made by the public to the RCDSO (n = 174) were used to refine the taxonomy. This sample was further used to assess the feasibility of use in a larger content analysis of complaints. Inter-coder reliability was also assessed using a separate sample of letters (n = 110). Results: The resulting taxonomy comprised three domains (Clinical Care and Treatment, Management and Access, and Relationships and Conduct), with seven categories, 23 sub-categories, and over 100 complaint codes. Pilot testing for the feasibility and applicability of the taxonomy’s use for a systematic analysis of complaints proved successful. Conclusions: The resulting coding taxonomy allows for reliable documentation and interpretation of complaints made to a DRA in Canada and potentially other jurisdictions, such that the nature of and trends in complaints can be identified, monitored and used in quality assurance and improvement.