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Clinical Computing in General Dentistry

Titus KL Schleyer , Thankam P. Thyvalikakath , Heiko Spallek , Miguel H Torres-Urquidy , Pedro Hernandez , Jeannie Yuhaniak
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1197/jamia.M1990 344-352 First published online: 1 May 2006


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.

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