Medical and Dental EHRs: Integrate for Overall Health

A patient’s healthcare extends head to toe and everything in between. Yet, the integration of medical and dental electronic health records (EHRs) still remains problematic in the overall health technological scheme to support universal health information systems. For reasons that go further than the patient, whether politically, economically, socially, and/or technologically, the basic premise of overall health to include dental seems to get missed in the EHR. Medical and dental EHR integration promotes the health of the whole person and works to co-manage a patient’s healthcare in a system of effective health information exchange (HIE).

“A fully integrated patient record and care model for both systemic health (medical) and oral health (dental) is needed for health information technology (HIT) standards, implementation and interoperability to avoid discrepancies between records and to support quality of care, safety, and cost reduction initiatives” (2010).

The link between oral and overall health has been well documented. Many systemic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular issues, can be suspected and evaluated through dental health care. The teeth and gums provide clues related a person’s general health that could lead to chronic problems later in life. Because electronic record implementation by dental practices has been slower with fewer dentists yet to participate, less research is available to support the need to fully support dental electronic records and therefore integration with medical records has shown less steam

“Although government panels and academicians are in general agreement that the separation of dental and medical records lead to “incomplete, inaccurate, inefficient and inadequate treatment both of medical and dental disease,” 1 no systematic research adequately supports this position” (2010).

Integrating medical and dental electronic health records is positive towards helping patients take proactive positions in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  To that end, health information management (HIM) professionals can play an advisory role in support of integrating EHRs for both practices. They can assist in the evaluation and selection of a vendor that has shown success in combining medical and dental EHRs.

Lessons learned:

  • Integration of medical and dental EHRs increases communication between practices.
  • There is less duplication and inconsistency between EHRs.
  • Fewer barriers exist for coordination of care.
  • EHRs increases transparency and accessibility of health information.
  • Improves clinical decision making.
  • Improves disease management.
  • Integration promotes accurate, thorough and legible medical and dental information at the same time.
  • Creates a single consolidated EHR.
  • Improves cost efficiencies for both practice systems.
  • Workflows improve with the use of one overall EHR.
  • Data for meeting meaningful use more effectively gathered and collated.
  • Helps create universal coding system and standards for both practice systems through data research and evaluation.

 

Rudman, W., Hart-Hester, S., Jones, W., Caputo, N., and Madison, M. (2010, Oct.). Integrating medical and dental records. Journal of AHIMA, 81 (10); 36-40.