Dental EHRs and Meaningful Use

Based on an article from RDH, Electronic dental records (EDRs) need to be established so dental practices can be an equally active partner with medical practices for overall health promotion. Patients with diabetes can have their oral health better monitored. Medications, lab results, radiology results, and histories for example, can be co-managed with preventative measures.

Dental information combined with EHRs just makes good sense and improves measures for Meaningful Use directives. It is to be noted though, that “dentists are listed as eligible professionals for federal incentives.” However, as previously mentioned, they fall short of requirements and the “government has missed the point that dental offices deserve realistic incentives to adopt EHRs.”

When the government created the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act or HITECH Act, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009, it required a “patient base of qualifying facilities must represent 30% of those on Medicare or Medicaid, which eliminates many dental practices”. Dental practices fell behind in this EHR initiative since it targets this narrow, though large segment of the population. It’s interesting to note that the baby boomer population reached the age to qualify for Medicare under normal circumstances just last year.

Undisputed evidence among physicians and dentists exists proving that good oral health contributes to good overall health, and despite this, dental practices are unable take advantage of the financial incentives to implement EHRs. Dr. Bertolami, the former president of the American Dental Education Association advised in a Roll Call article , before the health care reform law was enacted, that many adults and children miss millions of hours of work and school due to dental and oral health problems. The lack of correlation between dental and medical practices exasperates this and can lead to other complications such as mistakes in treatment. In fact, “government panels and academicians generally agree that the separation of dental and medical records leads to “incomplete, inaccurate, inefficient, and inadequate treatment of both medical and dental disease”

As the incentives and implementations of EHRs grow and evolve, the health care system will increase in technology to be more interoperable in an effort to establish the “Medical Dental Home.” The idea is to achieve a grand system as a one-stop shop for all health and dental information. Medical and dental practices from anywhere in the world with technologies in place would be able to care for patients with just a click on a computer.

Lessons Learned:

  • The government missed the correlation between dentistry and medicine.
  • Meaningful Use measures and criteria needed for Dental EHR certification
  • Evidence proves the need for increased dental and medical care co-management.
  • Government initiatives need to include dental health to improve overall health.
  • Quality of care and patient safety can improve with interoperable Health Information Exchange (HIE).

Quinn, Cindy. (2011) A click away. RDH.