Ideal Clinical Dental EHRs

Dental electronic health records (EHRs) have been lagging behind medical EHRs. Despite this, great technological strides have been accomplished to allow dentists and other dental professionals to include digital services with effective patient care. Practice management systems are slowly becoming more complete, offering a full range of integrated administrative capabilities as well as EHRs.

“The development and expansion of this technology for the dental office is technological integration, which will allow dentists to seamlessly link practice management, voice charting, intraoral cameras, CAD-CAM, lasers, electronic digital imaging, video imaging, digital radiography, and so forth, into a single potent system for complete clinical and practice management” (2000).

Digitized imaging and electronic charting improve time management and efficiencies for dentists and dental hygienists. These processes involved documenting about each and every tooth which is nothing short of time-consuming and energy utilizing tasks that require high amounts of concentration. Manual charting in paper records often led to errors due to poor penmanship and other legibility issues. Electronic charting allows for standardized language eliminating the need for interpretation of other staff or practitioner’s shorthand method of documentation. Digital imaging allows the dentist to see the tooth better which promotes improved diagnoses practices.

“It is a device to educate patients about their esthetic and functional needs, as well as their responsibilities to care for their dentition to ensure the success of their treatment. Digital photos and radiographs are conveniently stored as part of the patient’s electronic dental record” (2000).

After the initial EHR is created for a patient and historical documents are entered, patient care updating is a matter of simple modifications. The EHR automatically updates subsequent visits and always keeps the EHR ready and available for future visits. The treatment plan and billing costs can be created immediately with improved accuracies. Visits to specialists are easier and records can be electronically sent or copies can be printed for the patient.

“With the combination of automated periodontal charting, and the integration of extraoral and intraoral images, digital radiographs and the digital chart, the dentist readily has all the information available and able to be presented visually to the patient in the form of a treatment plan” (2000).

With effective and efficient EHRs, the dental practice can anticipate benefits in terms of more satisfied patients, an increase in patient profiles, and greater productivity in workflow practices. The technology to improve dental practices is here to stay and will improve for the future. Dental electronic health records might be a little slower in integration either with other dental applications and medical records, but it will happen.

“Either accept and embrace this technology and use it to our practice’s advantage, or reject it and sit on the sidelines and get left behind” (2000).

Lessons learned:

• Dentists need to better embrace EHRs for practice improvement and patient satisfaction.
• Practice management systems and EHRs will integrate into a complete package.
• The future of dental EHRs is bright with successful applications.
• Overall patient oral health will improve with better EHR technologies.
• Dentist and dental hygienists tasks are easier and more efficient with advanced EHR applications.

Delrose, D. C. DDS. and Steinberg, R. W. DDS. (2000, June). The clinical significance of the digital patient record. JADA, 131; 57S-60s.