In the first few years after graduating from my first dental school in Iraq in 2009, I had never dealt with practice statistics, surveys, or digital quality measurements. When I moved to other countries where I worked or studied in the dental field, I didn’t find many data-driven practices either.
However, after getting my second degree in dentistry in California and starting my first job in healthcare, my role as the on-site dental director opened the door to big data for me. I realized that collecting and analyzing data can have a huge impact on the quality of our care.
I believe that dentists today should count on having data-driven goals in mind when improving the quality of dental services. The data collected at different points in the dental care can be critical to timely and improved care. Clinics could work smarter to improve the quality of dental services while driving innovation.
With many dental offices adopting Electronic Dental Records (EDR), it is now easier to collect data about your dental office and your patients.
When data analysis is done correctly – and with the help of practice managers and your dental team – the quality of dental services and practice workflow can be improved.
By collecting and analyzing the amount of data stored in the EDR, you can help drive improvements in the following areas of your dental practice. Here are some examples of how big data can help:
Improving population health
The data can help you identify patients at greater risk of developing chronic and severe oral diseases. You can then implore them to make an appointment and avert the threat to general systemic health. Not only will this improve their health, but it will also reduce the cost of quality health care.
Reduce missed appointments
The EDR can be used to identify the people at greatest risk of missing an appointment and the underlying reasons.
This ensures that you can follow up on the group and take other steps to understand the reason for the no-show. In addition, it ensures that you can maximize the time with patients who willingly appear.
Real-time prevention of oral health deterioration
Real-time analysis of patient data along with historical data enables you to identify potential problems that could otherwise spiral out of control if not urgently addressed. With data analysis, you can identify discrepancies in oral hygiene and prescribe the necessary remedial measures.
There is no doubt that big data is already influencing dentistry for the better. Data analysis is vital to ensure that you improve customer service delivery by working smarter.
In addition, the integration of new dental information with historical medical information will lead to a better understanding of disease patterns for each patient. This ensures better preventive measures and an improved quality of dental services.
When I first started practicing data management and quality metrics, I initially thought it was possible to expect a 10% increase in our quality metric, where we are doing very well, and that the increase can be achieved in 90 days. After a while I realized that things are not as easy as they seem. Improving clinical performance and quality productivity requires a lot of work, especially understanding your weaknesses and strengths and the hard work of investing the best of all for the ultimate goal, patient care.
The data showed me trends in many practices that opened my eyes to the causes of gains or losses. For example, our sealant metrics have met our quarterly defined goals. Still, when I put all of the data together (patient’s age, erupted, non-erupted, partially erupted or restored teeth, visits due, schedule utilization and availability). I have found that we can do better and more than we suggested. Such data-driven speculations were a reason for a pilot practice to change our workflow. We checked our results after 90 days. The results have been excellent and from the data we have learned that we can do better than we previously thought. (SUGGESTION: When you say it’s “better” or “increased” … share some numbers. How much better was it? What did you expect and what did you actually get? As you say below: Don’t be afraid Numbers )
Other examples include the completion of treatment and cases such as dentures or RCTs. We tracked our average start and delivery days with detailed data reports. We have reviewed our workflow to find best practices to ensure that our respective patients receive the best quality of care in a timely manner. Sometimes a quick jump in your metrics or a quick curve indicates a training problem like incorrect documentation, incorrect coding, etc. This enables the clinical director or manager to identify areas for improvement and training.
A data-driven mentality, in my opinion, helps to achieve quality and productivity at the same time. This will keep the team focused on our mission and getting more involved with the clinical aspect of dentistry. For example, it is important to understand why dentists care about preventive care, a recall system, continuity of care and the different treatments available.
Don’t be afraid of numbers. They don’t make statistics out of people; Statistics turn patients into healthy people.
Editor’s note: For more information on electronic health records, please visit the ADA FAQ Index website.
Dr. Muhalab Al Sammarraie is a guest blogger for New Dentist Now. He grew up in Baghdad before coming to the United States as an overseas dentist. He received his 2019 DDS with honors and became a member of the ADA, the California Dental Association, and the San Diego County Dental Society. During his second degree, he gained remarkable leadership experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. He led many departments and oversaw process improvements in education, social services, and community health. Dr. Al Sammarraie is currently the dental director of the site at AltaMed Health Services, the largest FQHC in the country. Outside of dentistry, Dr. Al Sammarraie activist groups in Iraq helping war victims and displaced persons find education and medical care.