ShareThis Page
Health

Experts lobby to add key dental data to medical records

| Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008

Despite proven links between dental disease and general health, patient medical records rarely include a dental chart.

That could be deadly, said Valerie Powell, a professor of computer and information systems at Robert Morris University.

"The research shows that there is a close relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease, also with stroke, respiratory disease, kidney disease. Some research shows that certain oral diseases are associated with conditions that lead to low birth weight," Powell said.

"And yet dentists and physicians aren't communicating. I really don't believe we're going to get an optimal improvement in clinical care until we take care of this problem."

Seeing an opportunity with a new White House administration, Powell organized a teleconference Wednesday with a dozen specialists in dentistry, medicine and computer science nationwide to compile recommendations for Tom Daschle, President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services.

Obama requested such recommendations from "health care community discussions" nationwide.

Last year, Gov. Ed Rendell appointed Powell to the 44-member Pennsylvania Chronic Care Management, Reimbursement and Cost Reduction Commission. She said one glaring problem in chronic health care is lack of information-sharing between doctors and dentists.

"There's this notion that dentistry is somehow different and separate from medicine, and that's an obsolete way of doing business," said Dr. Franklin Din, a dentist for 20 years who is a consultant for Apelon, Inc., a Connecticut company specializing in medical software. "Obviously the mouth is part of the body. So oral health conditions can affect the rest of the body."

The panel Powell convened plans to send its recommendations to Daschle by the end of the month. The ideas include modifying dental and medical education so future dentists and physicians are well-versed in both fields, using computer technology to share records and addressing liability concerns that could prevent the sharing of patient information.

The University of Pittsburgh is one of the only schools in the country with a dental informatics program, which studies how computers can improve dental care.

"The challenge here is ... that overwhelmed dentists have little time to try to do everything," Dr. Miguel Humberto Torres-Urquidy, a dentist in the Pitt program, told the panel. "We have to find a solution for the busy practitioner. I think developing these tools -- informatics and computer technology, or even just a good paper form -- could make a big difference."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me