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J Am Med Inform Assoc 13:344-352 doi:10.1197/jamia.M1990
  • Original Investigation
  • Research Paper

Clinical Computing in General Dentistry

  1. Titus KL Schleyer,
  2. Thankam P Thyvalikakath,
  3. Heiko Spallek,
  4. Miguel H Torres-Urquidy,
  5. Pedro Hernandez,
  6. Jeannie Yuhaniak
  1. Affiliations of the authors: University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine, Center for Dental Informatics, Pittsburgh, PA
  1. Correspondence and reprints: Titus K.L. Schleyer, DMD, PhD, Center for Dental Informatics, University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine, 3501 Terrace Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261; e-mail: <titus{at}pitt.edu>
  • Received 14 October 2005
  • Accepted 7 February 2006

Abstract

Objective Measure the adoption and utilization of, opinions about, and attitudes toward clinical computing among general dentists in the United States.

Design Telephone survey of a random sample of 256 general dentists in active practice in the United States.

Measurements A 39-item telephone interview measuring practice characteristics and information technology infrastructure; clinical information storage; data entry and access; attitudes toward and opinions about clinical computing (features of practice management systems, barriers, advantages, disadvantages, and potential improvements); clinical Internet use; and attitudes toward the National Health Information Infrastructure.

Results The authors successfully screened 1,039 of 1,159 randomly sampled U.S. general dentists in active practice (89.6% response rate). Two hundred fifty-six (24.6%) respondents had computers at chairside and thus were eligible for this study. The authors successfully interviewed 102 respondents (39.8%). Clinical information associated with administration and billing, such as appointments and treatment plans, was stored predominantly on the computer; other information, such as the medical history and progress notes, primarily resided on paper. Nineteen respondents, or 1.8% of all general dentists, were completely paperless. Auxiliary personnel, such as dental assistants and hygienists, entered most data. Respondents adopted clinical computing to improve office efficiency and operations, support diagnosis and treatment, and enhance patient communication and perception. Barriers included insufficient operational reliability, program limitations, a steep learning curve, cost, and infection control issues.

Conclusion Clinical computing is being increasingly adopted in general dentistry. However, future research must address usefulness and ease of use, workflow support, infection control, integration, and implementation issues.

Footnotes

  • This project was supported in part by grant 5T15 LM007059-19 from the National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and grant 167967 from the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia–CONACYT).

  • We thank the study participants who generously donated their time for the interviews; Scott Beach and his staff from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research for assisting with the telephone interviews; James Dayton from ORC Macro for his help in interpreting response rates; Gail Weisman and Bob Kehoe from the Dental Products Report for providing their technology survey data; Brion Maher for his help with statistical analysis; and Astrid Weirauch and the pilot testers for feedback on early versions of the interview script. We also thank Kimberlee Barnhart for her assistance in the final formatting of the manuscript.

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