Accepting Data from Non-Dental EHRs as Emergency Room Dental Patients Increase

Throughout the US, patients are turning up in emergency rooms with dental problems (Louis, 2013). One Maine hospital has opened an associated dental clinic to deal with the cause of dental problems (Dentistry IQ, 2013). Often, these are patients with an abscess or infection that requires antibiotics, which the ER can prescribe, but also an underlying dental problem that the hospital is not able to treat. Dental referrals from Emergency Rooms are thus on the rise.

To expedite these visits and increase the chance of dealing with the core cause of the problem, dental offices need to be able to accept data and patient records from outside software. Health information exchange is crucial in these cases, where neglected abscesses and infections can be life-threatening (Louis, 2013). Forty percent more Americans were hospitalized for dental problems over the past eight years, and some of those patients did not survive (Shah, Leong, Lee & Allareddy, 2013). The importance of being able to accept patient data from other electronic health record systems can be a life or death matter, and dentists need to select and utilize software with Health Information Exchange (HIE) capability.

Interoperability between healthcare software is not a new idea; the international Connectathon tests EHR software for interoperability on a variety of test cases, and in 2014 dental vendors will be attending for the first time. As dental practices work with other healthcare professionals, demanding software that supports HIE is key to success.

Another large component of patient treatment is successful recall. Software that reminds patients about appointments, teaches them about oral care and provides warning signs and danger tips can be crucial for patients to understand the need for dental visits. Cloud-based management of patient interaction ranging from text messages to email and phone calls allows practices to aggressively follow up with patients who are at risk or need special attention. Different vendors have different patient recall options, but for patients with advanced oral disease, increasing frequency of communication can be a key tool to increase health and office visits. As these patients continue to increase, dental software with strong recall functionality will be increasingly important.

Lessons Learned:

  • US patients are increasingly having life-threatening, serious dental health problems that are first diagnosed in hospital emergency rooms.
  • Dental treatment for these dangerous conditions usually follows ER visits, and dentists need software that accepts patient records from ERs.
  • Health Information Exchange can be crucial for treating complex dental patients.
  • Software that supports patient relations management to increase recall is important for treating complex or advanced stage patients.



Louis, Catherine Saint. (2013) Oral Infections Causing More Hospitalizations. New York Times, August 30. Last Accessed 9/10/2013:

Dentistry IQ Editors. (2013) Maine hospital opens dental clinic to alleviate ER burdens. Dentistry IQ, August 8. Last Accessed 9/10/2013:

Osborne, Mike. (2013) Tennessee Dental ER Visits on the Rise, Office Visits Falling. August 13. Last Accessed 9/10/2013:

Shah, Andrea. Leong, Kelly, Lee, Min & Allareddy, Veerasathpurush. (2013) Outcomes of Hospitalizations Attributed to a Periapical Abscess from 2000 to 2008: A Longitudinal Trend Analysis. Journal of Endodontics, 39(9): 1104-1110. Last Accessed 9/10/2013: (note: Paywall)