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New National Dental IT System Improves Patient Care

HSE primary care dental staff now have access to fully digitised dental treatment records for all of  their patients following the completion of a nationwide rollout of the HSE National Dental Record and Information System. 

The system is now live in 221 locations in 26 counties, holds more than 873,965 patient charts and has contributions from over 750 staff. 

The national roll-out of the e-health ‘Software of Excellence’ tool was completed recently by the HSE’s Office of the Chief Information Officer’s Oral Health IT project team. It has been designed to document the dental care provided in the HSE to patients using the service. The creation of an associated reporting tool enables next day reporting on the data within the system. 

Fully digitised dental treatment records for patients are now available and since March 2019 are accessible to HSE dentists all over the country. It allows HSE dentists and staff to better manage appointments and to offer them quicker to other patients when cancellations occur. 

Traditional paper records were held in individual dental surgeries around the country. Staff had to be in the location to manage appointment changes or clinical enquiries by parents or clinical staff. The system enables the creation of a unique patient record accessible in all locations, making the live data available to all the clinical team. 

Dr Christine Myers, HSE Principal Dental Surgeon in Coolock Primary Care Centre in Dublin 17, said it was an excellent tool to have.

“There’s no searching for charts. If a patient is coming to us in Coolock from another health centre then we can access their chart electronically very quickly. This is particularly handy if you have an emergency case in early on a Monday morning which does happen. We can find information quickly. For example if a patient is seen in Kilbarrack and then comes into Coolock we can access their chart. It’s a really good tool to have,” said Christine.

“One of the other benefits is that you don’t have to worry about illegible handwriting. Definitely it’s easier and less risky with this system. Notes are saved and secured. For patients who want to change their appointments it’s easy to make that change, even if it’s for another location. So overall, my experience is that this is a tool that really benefits staff and patients.”

Now patient records are readily accessible, in a fully GDPR compliant manner, to HSE dentists thereby potentially improving outcomes with faster interventions.

Oral Health ICT Lead Anne O’Neill describes this as a positive story about the digitisation of the service.  

“There are real benefits with this national Dental Record and Information system. It’s a great organisational tool: parents can contact any clinic and have the information on their next appointment available. It will improve continuity of care for the patient: each appointment is documented and updated live so that the patient journey is mapped, making every contact visible to all staff involved in the patient care plan. It allows us to track health trends. Part of the training process was the identification of key pieces of information which we can then use for service and health planning,” she said.

“We can now report and review usage trends like the numbers of patients coming for emergency appointments or the number of decayed teeth diagnosed in a week.  There are real time savings with this new tool. In the past HSE dentists had to spend time going through paper records trying to find the relevant information. This tool allows them to track not just the care provided to the patient, but the care provided to each tooth. The information is updated live and this frees up time that can be used on direct patient care.”   

The national digital system is also a very effective dental public health monitoring system which will be used to track dental public health, analyse data and measure the effectiveness of treatments on patients.  

Anne O’Neill added, “I have to acknowledge the role of our HSE primary care dental staff in meeting the digitisation challenge of getting this system in place; it was really great to see the level of support they gave each other and how enthusiastic they were about being better able to access and organise their clinics. This is a big tool with a lot of potential. 

“We are already using it to monitor and analyse nationwide data including the measurement of the effectiveness of treatments on patients. These patients, who are largely made up of children under the age of 16 and patients with special needs will benefit hugely from the results. Analyses of large scale data sets can predict future needs and help to focus resources to where there is a greater need.  It is an example of technology supporting clinical care, business management and reduces our reliance on occasional survey based data.”

coolock dental web

HSE ICT Delivery director for Community Care, Alan Price said, “Having fully digitised dental treatment records brings many benefits for patients and for HSE staff. On the ground, surgeries will benefit from a leaner appointments process, due to the digitisation of consultation scheduling. This will reduce the number of voids in appointments due to late cancellations or ‘no shows’,” he said.

“As this is a single national system, if a patient moves from one dentist or geographical area to another, the dental record will follow the patient. This system also provides one of the building blocks that will lead to the development of a patient’s national Electronic Health Record. I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the team involved in this project. IT staff worked closely with dentists, nurses, hygienists and other staff on this project which will make a real difference.”