Dental is one of the health sector’s unheralded areas. Yet according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately 12,000 dental surgeries are located across Australia.
Because of this widespread role in the community, the oral health profession has much to gain from forthcoming ehealth developments, argues Dr Neil Hewson, who sits on the Australian Dental Association’s special purpose committee on ehealth.
“The ADA has a good understanding of ehealth,” said Dr Hewson. “While there’s a huge focus on the PCEHR, that’s just [one] part of it. Secure messaging is also very important to us, along with e-prescriptions and e-referrals.”
According to ADA figures, 87 percent of dental practices are computerised, a number a few percentage points lower than in the GP sector. And of those computerised practices, 62 percent use digital charting.
Dr Hewson, who is also a clinical lead with NEHTA, said computerised practices will be ready for the PCEHR when the makers of their practice software update the program packages to take advantage of the new record.
“The experience in the UK is that nearly all access to the medical record is done via practice software,” noted Dr Hewson. “Dentists are generally good with new technology, and the medical record will be invaluable for providing a summary of events that the patient has undergone in the past.”
Dr Hewson said the profession also sees a lot of value in being able to access the record to find out what medications a patient has been taking. “Often the patient can’t remember, or has an incomplete recollection of what their GP has prescribed,” he said.
Like their colleagues in the medical sector, dentists are also concerned about some aspects of the PCEHR. In particular, they are worried about the facility which allows a patient to effectively censor part of their record from the eyes of medical (and dental) practitioners, Dr Hewson said.
“The government is spending a lot of money to make things better, but then they are still giving consumers the option about what practitioners see in their record,” he said. “Providing an option for what is in, and what is out, is dangerous.”
Dr Hewson said it’s vital for the success of the PCEHR that practitioners have a high level of confidence in the record. He’s concerned practitioners might doubt its value if they perceive they are not getting the full picture of a patient’s health record.
Also of use, but not currently in the picture for the record, are e-referrals and dental imaging, Dr Hewson said. “People don’t understand there are 13 specialties in dentistry, and so e-referrals and imaging, for a general dentist to refer to a specialist, would be quite useful.”
(Source: eHealthspace.org Limited)