The long-term success and spread of new oral health delivery systems depends on increasing the availability of interoperable oral health information technology systems connected across providers and integrated with general health systems. Many organizations, including the federal government, have recognized the importance of Health Information Technology (HIT) as a necessary component of developing health care systems to improve quality and reduce costs. Unfortunately, the oral health industry is significantly behind the curve in developing and using interoperable HIT systems capable of realizing this promise.
To address this issue, Pacific has launched an HIT initiative and formed a coalition of interested groups including representatives from the California Primary Care Association, the American Dental Association, the California Health Care Foundation and the American Health Information Management Association.
The coalition will be designing a demonstration project based in California community health centers (CHCs). California offers a number of advantages for this demonstration, with a large number of CHCs, a strong primary care association, and an active working relationship between the state's dental schools and CHCs. The project will develop interoperable and integrated software systems; provide support to participating CHCs to install these systems; offer training in using the systems, and guide the CHCs in developing and using quality improvement data to improve the quality of care and reduce costs. This demonstration could serve as a national model for integrating oral health into the developing national health information infrastructure.