Why oral-systemic health and dental EHRs make for a great marriage

In the last few years, oral systemic health has gained more and more attention. Explaining the importance to dentists is something that Dental Products Report has covered before.

In fact, Mayo Clinic highlights its importance as well. Dentists are key monitors and co-practitioners for oral health for patients. Health information exchange (HIE) enables many aspects of dental care and dental practice management. From improving interaction with dental laboratories for implants to treating complex patients with referrals and pre-existing conditions, health information exchange enhances quality of care and ease of life.

Recently. I had a talk with Dr. Lee Ostler the owner of the dental practice Center for Dental Health, as well as the president of the American Academy of Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH).

He has dedicated much of his professional life to communicating about oral-systemic health. AAOSH focuses on bridging the information gap with physicians to co-manage patients effectively and explain the inflammatory burden. As he puts it, “Most of what we deal with in the mouth is really a medical problem; it just has a dental solution.” AAOSH helps dentists, physicians, hygienists, and nurses to create the professional networks to understand and treat the oral-systemic connection.

Oral-systemic health covers far more than simply the connection between periodontal and heart health, which has been the focus of most of the research in this area. Many health concerns can be identified by dentists, or need to be considered differently by dentists.

Dr. Ostler points out the connection between periodontal disease and diabetes, pregnancy complications, childhood caries, sleep disorders, the EMT and airways connection, and even neurology. From posture to preventative oral care, dentists can screen and monitor patients, providing key inflammatory and co-management information to patients and other caretakers.

One of the benefits Dr. Ostler has found while exploring this oral-systemic health connection is that the more educated the medical community becomes about the topic, the more referrals the practice sees. EMTs, obstetricians, diabetes specialists, and others now send their patients for specific screenings to monitor their health.

For instance, Dr. Ostler worked with four regional hospitals, the Group Health insurance organization, and dentists to create a workshop in 2013 about reducing costs through attention to the oral-systemic connection. The Eastern Washington Medical-Dental Health Summit was very well received and is also scheduled to happen again next year.

The information needed to care for the whole patient, focusing upon the oral-systemic connection is supported by electronic health records (EHR) technology. Dr. Ostler focuses on the opportunity in the patient history, where information can be stored in a consistent, care-focused way.

That information can be connected with inflammatory tests and salivary diagnostics, providing straightforward treatment plans and reporting not just for the dental practice, but also for medical colleagues. Dr. Ostler considers every patient as a potential conduit to their physician, an opportunity to educate and work with physicians. Treatment planning modules in dental EHRs focused on existing conditions and health history data that automatically trigger protocols and connect dentists to next steps are high on Dr. Ostler’s wish list. Within the practice, that enables dentists to provide high quality treatment for the whole patient. Outside the practice, the ability to exchange standardized health information with physicians using EHR based Health Information Exchange and interoperability technology enables dentists to be integral to overall medical care.

As regulatory requirements continue to focus on accountable care, Dr. Ostler thinks that oral-systemic health is likely become more and more incentivized. Outcomes-focused dental care requires exchange of information with medical professionals, as well as accurate interpretation of medical information and background.

EHRs support the move to outcomes based patient care. As patients and medical professionals become educated about oral-systemic health, through outreach work like Dr. Ostler’s, dentists who focus on the whole patient and co-manage the treatment will succeed.

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