EHR and Interoperability Standards Improve Patient Care

Few dental systems currently emphasize interoperability, unless they’re talking about digital images. Can we use interoperability to enhance the communications between general dentists and their specialists, as well as dentists and medical providers? With a mobile population of patients, being able to transfer data between practices is important for new patients as well as for referrals and patients treated for complex conditions by multiple providers.

Standards can improve patient care across the board, by allowing systems to exchange patient data even when the dentists use different software. An similar situation used to exist with ATMs. It used to be that a customer could only use the ATM provided by his or her bank. Banks recognized that access was crucial to retaining customers, and over time adopted standards for sharing information. That enabled us to reach the stage we are at now, where customers can use nearly any domestic ATM to access their account information securely.

Dental patients can be frustrated by the inability to share information across providers—re-entering historical information procedures, histories, medications, etc. leads to inaccuracies and reduces patient satisfaction. Standards for electronic dental information exchange are on the horizon. Almost nothing will stop the advance of information exchange through all industries. By demanding standardized information storage and exchange between systems, dentists can get ahead of the curve and have a competitive advantage in processing information and treating patients.

Lessons Learned:

  • Interoperability requires standards for information exchange.
  • Few current dental systems encourage data exchange, despite a mobile population and multi-provider treatment.
  • Other industries have struggled with this problem and not only found it tractable, but also found an increase in customers once it was handled.
  • Standardization is the key to reducing inaccuracies during information transfer.

Wadsworth, Linda & Uretz, Michael. (2013) The advent of electronic dental recordsRDH Magazine, 33(3). Last Accessed 3/28/2013: