The Need for Electronic Referrals & Dental EHRs to Keep Patients out of the ER

Uninsured individuals often ignore or put off dental care until they show up at the emergency room. Unfortunately, only limited dental care is available at the ER and it is usually much more expensive than at a dentist. Furthermore, if patients had received treatment earlier, they usually would require less invasive and less costly procedures.

To address this problem, healthcare providers in Georgia are looking to create an electronic referral system that connects dental ER patients with low-cost or Medicaid dentists and dental clinics. Successful use of electronic records and interfaces would allow ER doctors to refer patients to dental clinics that have openings and can take up the ongoing treatment and care of the patient. Through interfaces between the hospital’s system and the dental office EHR, the referral dentist would be aware of any diagnosis, medications, or procedures that had been done in the ER.  Procedures could be planned for immediately, without a screening visit, which would allow for faster and more efficient care.

This kind of interface, which is standard between hospitals and medical offices, including all specialties, increases overall efficiency, drives patients to available providers and can hopefully reduce the strain on the overall healthcare system. However, it depends upon the dental software vendors integrating the ability to send and receive electronic health records between various providers. To improve care and keep patients from returning to the ER, dentists need to be regarded as a part of the care team, and electronic information exchange needs to support them.


MyFoxAtlanta Staff. (2013) Too many toothaches taking over ERs. MyFoxAtlanta, Feb 28. Last Accessed 3/14/2013: