Rhode Island Department of Corrections Benefits from Dental EHRs

Inmates are patients, too. They seek and need medical, dental, and behavioral health care. However, they are confined within special circumstances that need to be carefully tracked and monitored within an especially secured and often heavily patrolled environment. Establishing an electronic health record (EHR) that includes medical, dental, and behavioral health that helps treat and maintain the health of inmates while watching their every move through the system requires additional applications that otherwise would not necessarily be included outside the department of corrections.

Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOCs) supports seven correctional facilities. They needed an electronic health record that could effectively care for the inmates in all phases of care, medical,dental, and behavioral,  while maintaining effective communications within and among the facilities. They set up specific steps to achieve and implement an effective EHR similar to other healthcare systems. These include hiring expert consultants to help identify essential capabilities, setting achievable goals, plan implementation guidelines, going live, and assessing results.

RIDOC had the benefit of having established an electronic prescription order entry nine years prior to investigating EHR transition. Having that successful experience made the current electronic record’s implementation a much welcomed and needed addition. This alleviated the prior staff resistance to initiating the EHR. However, while in the process of strategizing the new system, budgetary funds ran short and delayed implementation.

Once the contract was signed, the timeline was created, and RIDOC set go-live incrementally between divisions for smooth transitions. Essential training, patient data population, and staff participation created a positive transition to electronic health records.

This success of RIDOCs transition and implementation to electronic health records that include dental and behavioral health sets the example for other correctional facilities.


  • The department of corrections will benefit from using electronic health records that include dental records.
  • Inmates are patients with special needs to include constant tracking. Specially designed EHRs that track oral health care can achieve this.
  • Planning, setting achievable goals, and reviewing results increases EHR success.

Marocco, J. and Marcussen, P. (2010, February). Rhode Islandstreamlines with electronic health records. Corrections Today, 72, 1, 27-28. Retrieved March 9, 2012, from Research Library. (Document ID: 2001948181).