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The vital role of a unique electronic dental record (EDR) in providing comprehensive health care

May 3, 2024
This dentist explains how maintaining a distinct electronic dental record (EDR) that is separate—but interoperable—with the electronic medical record (EMR) could be vital to comprehensive health care.

As medical and dental care has evolved, the connections between the two disciplines have become obvious. Care coordination between dental professionals and other health-care professionals has been identified as a pressing need to ensure quality, comprehensive care. However, one crucial aspect that often gets overlooked (or more accurately, misconstrued due to overly reductive logic) is the importance of maintaining a distinct electronic dental record (EDR) that is separate—but interoperable—with the electronic medical record (EMR). This separation is essential not only to preserve the autonomy and innovation of the dental profession but also to ensure that dental patients get the quality of care they deserve.

The unique needs of dentistry

Dentistry is a field of specialized knowledge, techniques, and workflows different from the broader medical landscape. If the EDR is integrated into the EMR, it risks becoming an afterthought, with EDR needs likely taking a back seat to any medical concerns. This would stifle the innovation that drives dentistry forward. Innovation that has already been affected by the slow progress of EDR vendors would likely come to a halt.

Complexity and cost implications for dental teams

Integrating the EDR into the EMR would also introduce significant complexity and shockingly high costs for dental practices. The unique requirements of dental recordkeeping, billing, and practice management would need to be shoehorned into a system designed primarily for medical care. This added burden would prove challenging for dental teams, diverting valuable resources away from direct patient care and potentially compromising the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the practice.

Patient trust and understanding

Patients are accustomed to having their dental and medical records maintained separately. Combining these systems could create confusion and concerns about the privacy and security of their personal health information. Maintaining the EDR as a distinct entity helps preserve the familiar and trusted relationship between patients and their dental providers, ensuring they trust the confidentiality and integrity of their dental records.

Enabling holistic patient care

While the EDR and EMR should remain separate, they also need to be interoperable to allow seamless data exchange and coordination of care. Maintaining this separation will facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of patients’ overall health, as it will provide information to those who need it when they need it without overwhelming them with unrelated details.

For example, a physician will not be distracted by the dental and periodontal chart for a dentally healthy patient; they would see only a summary of that patient’s needs. Similarly, a dentist will not be distracted by every mole, wart, and sniffle a patient presents to their physician.

The importance of interoperability

Despite the need to maintain the EDR as a distinct entity, the importance of interoperability between the EDR and EMR cannot be overstated. Easy data exchange and care coordination between dental and medical providers are essential to delivering the highest quality of patient-centric comprehensive care. Interoperability can maintain the autonomy and innovation of dentistry while unlocking the benefits those looking to integrate our records seek.

EDRs and comprehensive care

Maintaining a separate, but interoperable, EDR and EMR is vital to preserving the integrity and innovation of the dental profession. By doing so, health-care systems will unlock quality comprehensive patient care without burdensome workflows and fees. Seamless collaboration of all disciplines includes a unique EDR that is crucial to the interoperable, connected, patient-centric future of quality comprehensive care.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Clinical Insights newsletter, a publication of the Endeavor Business Media Dental Group. Read more articles and subscribe.

Bryan Laskin, DDS, is a Minnesota dentist and tech entrepreneur working to improve dentistry by increasing data accessibility through innovation, education, and standardization. Creator of Lake Minnetonka Dental, Upgrade Dental, Digital Nitrous, OperaDDS, Dental Standards Institute, and cofounder of Toothapps, he advises and invests in many progressive health-care companies. Dr. Laskin is an avid speaker and author of the Amazon best-selling books, The Patient First Manifesto and Dental Disorder. Learn more at bryanlaskin.com.