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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology

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How can an EHR include an oral health record to improve a child's health?

Pediatric physicians often do not address issues related to oral health, leaving this area to dental providers and view it as a topic separate from a patient's general health.  American Medical News noted in 2008 go to exit disclaimer that financial and educational barriers, among others, create significant disparities in the oral health care of children in vulnerable populations.  Electronic health records, by connecting health care providers and engaging parents and the community in children's health care, can serve as a means of improving the quality and accessibility of pediatric oral health care.

The National Network for Oral Health Access cites the integration of medical and dental health data using an electronic health record as critical to the success of strategies for providing preventative oral health care.  Recently, some oral health providers have implemented electronic health records into their practices. An oral health non-profit in Boston, The Forsythe Institute, is working to bring health care to underserved children at school while incorporating an electronic dental record to follow the children throughout their care.  Such initiatives highlight the importance of oral health in children, and how it can be improved through the use of EHRs.

In an April 2009 article from the Children's Dental Health Project, Dr. Burton Edelstein and Meg Brown emphasize the need for health IT in pediatric oral health care.  This article focuses on the problem that oral health is too often not viewed as part of overall health, and that health IT can provide similar benefits in the pediatric oral health setting.  Specifically, the authors point to opportunities for health IT to make a positive impact upon oral health care for children.  These opportunities for health IT to improve pediatric oral health suggest that providers and other stakeholders:

  • Refine electronic dental records and establish a standard for inter-user transfers of information.
  • Link dental offices into virtual networks for patient care, quality effectiveness research, and improved administration.
  • Link dental services to primary care medical services in virtual networks
  • Improve access to information, raise awareness and inform consumers about appropriate care
  • Improve the quality of dental care through informatics-based comparative effectiveness research and sharing information on treatment norms.

These current opportunities illustrate that there is still much work to be done in the area of electronic health records for pediatric oral health care.  With increased awareness that oral health is crucial to pediatric care, stakeholders can better implement and use electronic health records that address oral health.

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