Add electronic dental records to list of health IT failures

Our list of health IT trends not to watch in 2012 prompted a reader to suggest that electronic dental records should also be included, largely because ROI can't be proven.

Editor's note: SearchHealthIT.com received this feedback in response to the article Five health IT trends not to watch in 2012, with a reader suggesting that electronic dental records be added to the list. It has been edited for style but not for content.

Years before Newt Gingrich distanced himself from his lobbying for electronic health records (EHRs) on behalf of paying members of his Center for Health Transformation think tank, he penned what would become a popular mantra for other health IT stakeholders as well: "Paper kills." I wonder how long ago Gingrich recognized that even though he created a really catchy slogan, it still wasn’t clever enough to hide the truth: Stolen medical identities have proven to be far more dangerous than paper cuts.

I found your article informative, but there's an abandoned health IT goal you missed -- electronic dental records (EDRs). Don't feel bad. Dentistry has always been an overlooked niche in health care legislation, simply because people don’t like thinking of dentists unless they can't avoid it any longer. And since leaders in the dental industry have never been voluntarily transparent with consumers about competing allegiances that have crept in over decades, marketplace absurdities have been quietly cultivated that would have never survived the scrutiny of competition in a free market -- particularly in dental health IT.

Even without intentional help from dental leaders, the truth about electronic dental records is beginning to emerge. A little over a month ago, Dr. Paul Child lost his job as CEO of the highly-respected dental research firm CR Foundation out of Provo, Utah, because he made the careless public statement that EDRs offer dentists a "high return on investment;" when in fact, upon request, the dentist was unable to produce evidence to support the CR Foundation's claim. Child's last day was Dec. 31, 2011. The next day Dr. Gordon Christensen took over as CEO.

Anyone who understands dentistry can tell you why electronic dental records are becoming increasingly difficult to sell. They are not only more dangerous and expensive than paper dental records, but they offer virtually nothing to patients that is not already being adequately addressed more safely and cheaply using the telephone, fax and U.S. Mail -- none of which endanger patients' welfare or require a dentist to be a HIPAA covered entity.

And that is why American Dental Association-approved EDRs should be included in your list of failed health IT efforts. Thanks for your attention.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Brian Eastwood, Site Editor or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

This was first published in January 2012

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