According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, Dentists have rapidly increased their EHR adoption and increased the prevalence of office technology. In 2004, only a quarter of dentists used computers chairside during a patient visit, but that number jumped to 76.5% in 2012. Nearly all of the dentists surveyed said they had access to a computer in the office, and those who did not manage some part of their practice electronically indicated they were likely to start within two years.
Sixteen percent of group practices claimed to be completely paperless, followed by 14.3% of solo practitioners. Seven out of ten dentists used one of four major EHR vendor products: Dentrix, Eaglesoft, SoftDent, and Practice Works. Practitioners were most likely to use computers to schedule appointments and store treatment plans and imaging studies, but were least likely to use EHRs to document chief complaints, medical history, and progress notes.
With more than 5,000 dentists successfully attesting to meaningful use as of November 2012 and collecting $95 million in EHR Incentive Program payments, the study bears out what CMS already knows: successful EHR adoption is becoming widespread among dental professionals. “If solo and group practitioners who reported they were very likely or somewhat likely to adopt clinical computing during the next two years follow through on these plans, adoption rates would rise to 90%,” stated the study’s authors.
Despite the enthusiasm for collecting government incentives, the study found that dentists were less interested in using the collected data for medical research purposes. Only 44% of the survey participants were willing to reuse their data for research, although if they were to do so, many of them preferred to release their data electronically rather than using paper forms. “The results of this study are significant because they contribute to our understanding of how feasible it is to reuse electronic dental record (EDR) data for practice-based research,” the authors noted.
“Practitioners store a significant amount of clinical information on computers, providing a potentially rich source of data for quality improvement and clinical, epidemiologic and comparative effectiveness research,” the study concludes. “EDRs may be an important resource not just for supporting clinical care, but also for supporting quality improvement and research to improve oral health.”