Building a Rich, Structured Electronic Dental Record

Many electronic dental records focus on free text fields for patient health information. This leads to a situation where data exchange and standardization are low, which decreases the usefulness of electronic records. Tooth charts sometimes allow only for three types of standardized notation, one per tooth, which leads to a loss of contextual information and the need for associated free text notes that are not standardized. When handling referrals, seeing patients who have had care gaps or working with complex diagnoses, this can be an information limitation that reduces quality of care.

But at the same time, requiring dentists to use long click-through menus with standardized data fields is a difficult proposition. The authors of the research paper cited below evaluated the possibility of using standard terms in a voice-activated data system to record clinical patient information during an exam. Over 1000 dental concepts were identified by dentists for inclusion in the dental EHR, which they named MUDRLite.

By using standardized data fields, the software can generate graphical representations of patient mouths that highlight the key diagnostic information. This provides an immediate incentive and benefit for using the terminology required by the EHR. The authors describe this visualization as follows:

“the DentCross component looks like a kind of a dental panoramic tomograph. This component is fully interactive and enables to record fully structured dental medicine information that can be inserted user-friendly by mouse or keyboard. A dentist can choose among about 60 different actions, treatment procedures or tooth parameters that are displayed graphically and lucidly.” (p. 532)

Voice-controlled data entry that results in a visualized, graphical interface that patients and dentists can both interpret would be a major boon for dentists, particularly those with many referrals or repeat patients. This research demonstrates that standardized data fields can produce valuable information for dentists, with high usability through voice data entry. As EHRs continue to permeate the dental field, such research offers hope for strong dental software.

 

Nagy, Mirosalv, Hazlicek, Petr, Zvarova, Jana, Dostalova, Tatjana, Seydlova, Michaela, Hippman, Radim Smidl, Lubos Trmal, Jan TRMAL & Psutka, Josef. ( 2008). Voice-controlled Data Entry in Dental Electronic Health Record. Stud Health Technol Inform. 136: 529-34.