CLINICAL DOCUMENTATION OF DENTAL CARE IN AN ERA OF ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORD USE

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Abstract

Background

Although complete and accurate clinical records do not guarantee the provision of excellent dental care, they do provide an opportunity to evaluate the quality of care provided. However, a lack of universally accepted documentation standards, incomplete record-keeping practices, and unfriendly electronic health care record (EHR) user interfaces are factors that have allowed for persistent poor dental patient record keeping.

Methods

Using 2 different methods—a validated survey, and a 2-round Delphi process—involving 2 appropriately different sets of participants, we explored what a dental clinical record should contain and the frequency of update of each clinical entry.

Results

For both the closed-ended survey questions and the open-ended Delphi process questions, respondents had a significant degree of agreement on the “clinical entry” components of an adequate clinical record. There was, however, variance on how frequently each of those clinical entries should be updated.

Summary

Dental providers agree that complete and accurate record keeping is essential and that items such as histories, examination findings, diagnosis, radiographs, treatment plans, consents, and clinic notes should be documented. There, however, does not seem to be universal agreement how frequently such items should be recorded.

Clinical Implications

As the dental profession moves towards prevalent use of electronic health care records, the issue of standardization and interoperability becomes ever more pressing. Settling issues of standardization, including record documentation, must begin with guideline-creating dental professional bodies, who need to clearly define and disseminate what these standards should be and everyday dentists who will ultimately ensure that these standards are met and kept.

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