Evidence-based Dental Treatment Protocols in EHRs: Great Strides at UCLA?

Currently, dental treatment protocols are difficult to discover and use, requiring research outside practice hours and ongoing study. Wouldn’t it be great if software suggested treatment protocols? That’s standard in medicine.

In a medical EHR, treatment protocols are automatically suggested based on symptoms, diagnoses, etc. Treatment protocols change all the time. Diagnoses need to be linked to evidence, particularly where pre-existing conditions are involved. For instance, while treating a patient with high blood pressure, knowing the effects of different anesthetics could involve specific knowledge about recent studies. In medical EHRs, evidence-based treatment protocols have been incorporated for years. The research is integrated into easy-to-interpret categories and aggregations that increase a provider’s knowledge and awareness.

Dentists will eventually have such features. Evidence-based treatment protocols require development, however. Luckily, there is movement on that front. For instance, the UCLA School of Dentistry received a five million dollar gift for founding the UCLA Mick and Mary Dragoo Periodontal and Implant Clinical Research and Patient Care Center. It will focus specifically on clinical care of periodontology and implantology, with the main goal of improving worldwide care.

In the future, dental EHRs and dental software will suggest treatment protocols for providers. UCLA’s and other groups’ protocols will require technical implementation to be useful. Developing evidence-based treatment protocols is a crucial step, but access and availability will depend on integration with daily, technology-based workflow. The right protocols should be identified and made visible by software that is part of daily operations.

Incorporation of evidence-based dental treatment protocols into daily dental practice is growing, but is not widespread. The formation of a specific center to focus on developing and disseminating clinical protocols will increases the likelihood of evidence-based decision making for dentists. Building clinical findings directly into dental software would increase both access and awareness for dental clinical findings. As UCLA’s research progresses, software will need to keep pace. Evidence-based treatment protocols will one day be standard features in dental software.

Lessons Learned:

  • Implementation of dental decision support and evidence-based treatment protocols into dental software is still in its infancy.
  • The new periodontal and implant center at UCLA will focus on clinical care and guidelines.
  • Disseminating and incorporating evidence-based protocols into dental software will be a key component of ongoing software development.

Deane, Brianna (2013) UCLA Dentistry gets $5M to establish clinical research center for patient care, education. UCLA Newsroom, March 7. Last Accessed 4/1/2013: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/ucla-dentistry-receives-5-million-243759.aspx