Improved EHRs Elevates Oral Medicine Professionals Goals

Oral medicine (OM) is a branch of dentistry that specializes in issues in oral health as it relates to medically complex conditions as well as non-surgical management of disorders of the oral and maxillofacial regions. Patients with multiple and/or complicated health issues, such as diabetes or cardiac conditions may benefit from evaluation with an oral medicine professional (OMP) to improve their medical status since they often need care from multi-specialties.

OMPs currently utilize electronic health records (EHRs) by tailoring applications they already use to serve a specific purpose, such as gathering a particular data set for research. This is problematic when it comes to patient care as safety could become a concern in providing care. Conducting research often requires collecting data from many applications and could be missed because of inferior EHR software. Schleyer, et al, (2011) examined the information needs of the oral medicine professional in analyzing the benefits information technology and use of electronic records would have in advancing patient care and research.

“Unless those providers are able to access the same electronic record systems, for instance by working in the same organization, meaningful exchange, shared review and management of information about a patient is difficult. Electronic records for oral medicine must, therefore, support collaboration both in local as well as multi-center settings” (2011)

Computers and information technology as it pertains to dental informatics advancements have been an important part of OMPs for many years, yet as research has shown, dentistry in general has lagged behind the medical world in terms of establishing effective and efficient electronic health records. Oral medicine professionals need and would greatly benefit from the use of an interoperable electronic record to evaluate patients as well as further research on oral health conditions.

“Properly designed EPRs can help manage all information about individual patients, and facilitate diagnostic and therapeutic activities, as well as prognostic assessment. In addition, it is crucial for OMPs to understand how computerized entry, management and analysis of clinical data can support generating knowledge” (2011).

There are several issues that hinder OMPs ability from providing patients with the proper care or worse providing insufficient treatment plans. First and foremost is gaining an understanding of the information needs of the oral medicine professional will help in developing effective EHRs. What data should be collected for effective diagnosis and how it should be displayed on computer screens presents concerns sinceOMis a multi-dimensional specialty with the potential for many medical and dental professionals caring for the same patients. The lack of standardized terminology is problematic in the dental EHR compared to medical information. Creating an environment where information technology and human professionals can collaborate on practice, workflows, data and terminology standards will greatly increase the OMPs use of electronic records in providing dental and medical care.

“We need to consider the effects of technology on the clinical workflow; the cognitive and information needs of the clinician; the influence of information design on clinical decision making; the integration of external knowledge resources with the decision-making process; and the potential role and utility of decision support systems” (2011).

The figure below is an illustration of how an EHR could be designed and benefitOM:

(Schleyer, et al, 2011)


Lessons learned:

  • EHRs in oral medicine is urgently needed in providing care to medically complex patients as well as to conduct effective research.
  • Absence of a standardization of terminology hinders proper data collection and entry.
  • EHRs in oral medicine need to be interoperable across many platforms.
  • Collaboration in the design of EHRs can lead to successful application and use of electronic records.

Schleyer T, Mattsson U, Ni RR, Brailo V, Glick M, Zain RB, Jontell M.(2011, April). Advancing oral medicine through informatics and information technology: a proposed framework and strategy. Oral Diseases, 17 (Suppl 1); 85-94.