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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 health IT be applied to pediatric oral health?

A key benefit to pediatric oral health from health IT is the enhanced capability it provides for linking a child’s dentist with his or her primary care provider.  It is for this same reason that the inclusion of oral health in the patient-centered medical home is becoming increasingly emphasized in the field and is a top strategic priority for both HRSA and HHS. Health IT affords the benefit of allowing various providers to connect and share information – information that could be relevant and valuable to providing care to a child in a different setting.  In the current environment, information about a child’s oral health and general health are too often locked in separate silos, as important health information is segregated at each point of care. However, according to the National Oral Health Policy Center at the Children's Dental Health Project (CDHP) exit disclaimer, health IT is not commonly used in dentistry outside of practice management systems or, less frequently, electronic health records (EHRs).  The CDHP presented a list of initial opportunities for health IT in the area of pediatric oral health, which are provided below.

  • Refine electronic dental records and establish a standard for inter-user transfers of information.
    • As electronic dental records become a more prevalent tool for oral health providers, it will be important to enhance them and ensure they are as beneficial as possible for the provider.

  • Link dental offices into virtual networks for patient care, quality effectiveness research, and improved administration.
    • Using health IT to include dental offices in virtual networks could lead to better tracking of a patient’s health history and ultimately lead to improved care.

  • Link dental services to primary care medical services in virtual networks.
    • By linking dental services to primary care medical services within virtual networks, medical professionals will be better able to track oral health problems which, if left untreated, can progress to infections or cause other systemic health concerns.

  • Improve access to information, raise awareness and inform consumers about appropriate care.
    • Health IT can provide a unique platform through which a dental provider can communicate with his or her patients. For example, a provider could use health IT to provide email reminders about upcoming appointments, educate patients about the importance of at home dental care, or inform patients about a new service being provided.

  • Improve the quality of dental care through informatics-based comparative effectiveness research and sharing information on treatment norms.
    • Technology can provide an avenue to share information quickly about cutting edge research, technology, or treatments. The speed at which this information can be made available could ultimately improve the overall quality of dental care.

Related Resource:

  • The System - Healthcare IT: Key to Access exit disclaimer (click on the Meeting Report tab and select “The System” in the drop down list) – Presented by Cheryl Austein Casnoff and Kathy O'Loughlin at a symposium convened by New York Academy of Sciences, Children's Dental Health Project, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, and the Global Children's Dental Health Task Force (2009).  This links to the report based on the meeting.
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