Dr. Thankam Thyvalikakath, director of the Regenstrief and IU School of Dentistry Dental Informatics program, has been awarded a $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The funding, which will be allocated over a five-year period, will help build on research that aims to improve communication between dental and medical clinicians.
The researchers point to a recent study from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Dentistry that found information from patients’ medical records is typically not available to oral health practitioners in an easy-to-use or timely manner.
The researchers hope to prove that electronically transmitted patient medical summaries from a health information exchange will be timelier and will include complete, up-to-date and legible medical information compared to the information oral health providers currently receive via fax.
“The advantage of accessing the patient’s medical history through an HIE is that not only will the data be readily and promptly available, but dental professionals will also have access to extensive information coming from multiple providers – the primary care physician, specialists, emergency departments, and from multiple healthcare systems,” said Thyvalikakath. “Incomplete patient medical history can compromise dental care and increase the risk of potential adverse events, a concern that has intensified during the pandemic with oral health professionals having to rely on the patient for many issues related to COVID-19, such as immuno-compromised status and vaccine history, to prevent disease transmission.”
Thyvalikakath says access to medical history would help all dental professionals, including general dentists, oral surgeons, periodontists, prosthodontists, endodontists, hygienists and others.
“In this day and age of electronic data transmissions in banking, shopping and other commercial fields, should health professionals still be relying on inefficient, paper-based methods for sharing patient information?” said Thyvalikakath. “Oral health practitioners shouldn’t have to wait, as our work shows they often currently must, for medical information to make treatment decisions. Delays in receiving medical information can require dental treatment to be postponed, sometimes to the detriment of the patient’s health and convenience.”
The research study, which is expected to begin in the next few months, will aim to establish a foundation for interprofessional dental-medical care delivery that supports patient care and reduces dental care costs.