1495 Clinical Computing in General Dentistry
T. SCHLEYER1, T.P. THYVALIKAKATH1, H. SPALLEK1, M.H. TORRES-URQUIDY1, P. HERNANDEZ2, and J. YUHANIAK1, 1University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA, 2University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, USA

Computer use for practice management purposes is widespread in dentistry. However, no formal studies have explored chairside computing in general dental offices. Objectives: The goals of this study were to determine demographic and practice characteristics of dentists who use computers at chairside; the practice information technology infrastructure; the method of storage (paper and/or computer) for clinical information; data entry responsibilities and modalities; opinions regarding advantages and disadvantages of, and barriers, enablers and potential improvements; and clinical use of the Internet. Methods: We conducted a two-stage telephone survey of a national random sample of 1,159 general dentists in active practice in the U.S. using a 39-item telephone interview. Results: The combined response rate for the screening and interview phases was 35.7 percent. The screening sample included 256 respondents (24.6 percent) with computers at chairside, 647 (62.3 percent) with computers elsewhere in the office, 136 (13.1 percent) without a computer and 120 (10.4 percent) non-respondents. 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 percent of all general dentists, were completely paperless. Auxiliary personnel, such as dental assistants and hygienists, predominated in entering 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. Among the suggested improvements for clinical computing were better input methods, smaller and faster computers, better user interface design, and improved digital radiology. Conclusion: Clinical computer applications are being increasingly adopted in general dentistry. However, future research must address usefulness and ease-of-use, workflow support, infection control and implementation issues.

Grant support: NIH 5T15LM07059-17.

Seq #170 - Dental Practice Patterns, Technology, and Quality Issues
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