The Growth of Clinical Information Exchange between Practices and Dental Labs

Restorative and implant dentistry is the leading edge in technology adoption and use. For both quality of care and practical, manufacturing-based reasons, electronic capture and transfer of information is crucial to this field.

Much dental implant and restoration manufacturing is outsourced to China and other countries. However, rapid advances in technology and the long shipping time from offshore laboratories are driving a re-shoring of dental manufacturing. For dentists in need of restorative and implant products, particularly ceramic, more and more domestic laboratories are providing CAD/CAM-produced, fast-turnaround products.

In part, whether offshore or domestic, the increased production speed of restorations and implants is due to the ability to electronically transfer information and photographs. Domestic laboratory management systems use 3D scanner input to create a restoration and get it back to the dentist within three days. This increased logistics capability is technology driven, and the only dentists who can take advantage of it are those who embrace and use “a fully digital workflow,” as Lee Culp of Dental Technologies Incorporated phrased it.

In addition, implant dentistry is seeing that digital scanning provides significant advances in quality of care, and improved outcomes. Conventional impressions simply don’t provide the amount of information that scanning technology can. In less time, with greater accuracy, restorations can be designed and applied (Derhalli, 2013).

One of the challenges faced while communicating information is the requirement for all patient information to be transmitted in a manner that is compliant with patient privacy laws such as HIPAA and HITECH.  While the benefits of communicating electronically are significant, dental professionals may be unwittingly breaking a number of laws while doing so.

Response to this need has arisen in clinical information exchange companies like Brightsquid Dental.  Brightsquid has developed technology to securely transfer large digital image files between dentists and labs. Technology such as Secure-Mail™ has significantly improved communication, allowing dentists and labs to attach 500MB of digital images to every message. “These innovations  are not only more convenient than traditional email services, but are compliant unlike Gmail, Hotmail and Outlook” says Mr. Rohit Joshi, CEO of Brightsquid Dental, “Doctor-patient confidentiality is just as important in the electronic world as it is in your dental practice; Secure-Mail™ has been developed to provide dentists and labs the tools necessary to easily share and view large image files in a HIPAA compliant manner.”

For dentists seeking restorations and implants, an electronic record that can securely transmit information to a laboratory, including non-compressed images and with HIPPA compliance, is the baseline for interacting with dental laboratories. Working with dental laboratories is going to become more and more technology-focused, particularly as CAD/CAM increases.

Lessons Learned:

  • Dental laboratories onshore and offshore require digital transfer of information, which should take place in a HIPPA-compliant fashion.
  • As CAD/CAM and 3D imaging technologies continue to increase, electronic transfer of information will become more and more important for restorative dentistry.
  • Digital scanning improves quality of care.
  • To deliver rapid care, electronic information transfer is necessary, but it also needs to be HIPPA-compliant.
  • An Electronic Health Record (EHR) can be the basis for communicating with dental laboratories and caring for patients in context without compromising patient data.

Johnson, Pam. (2013) Bringing Business Back. Inside Dental Technology, 4(3). Last Accessed 3/24/2013: http://dentalaegis.com/idt/2013/03/bringing-business-back

Derhalli, Munib. (2013) The Digitalizing of Implant Dentistry: A Clinical Evaluation of 15 Patients. Compendium, 34(3). Last Accessed 3/24/2013: http://www.dentalaegis.com/cced/2013/03/the-digitalizing-of-implant-dentistry-a-clinical-evaluation-of-15-patients