Health Information Technology in California Dental Practices: Survey Findings

Edge Research

This snapshot presents the results of a sample survey of California dentists, examining their use of and interest in health information technology, including the adoption of electronic dental health records.

August 2010

This sample survey of California dentists examines their use of and interest in health information technology, including the adoption and use of electronic dental health records (EDHRs). "Technology" was defined as computer hardware and software, clinical equipment, and Internet/website tools and applications. The survey also explores dentists' interest in federal stimulus support for EDHR adoption provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Among the key findings:

  • While California dentists understand the importance of health information technology to their practice, few consider themselves to be early adopters.
  • Most California dentists have a practice management system in place and have embraced electronic methods to help with the business side of dentistry — billing, accounting, and scheduling. However, the adoption rate for clinical tools, such as EDHRs, has been considerably slower.
  • Only 23% of California dentists say they have fully implemented an EDHR system in their practice, a proportion well below that for the adoption of electronic health records among office-based physicians (those working solo, in small medical groups, or at community health centers). Another third are either in the process or are planning to do so within the next two years. Those who have been practicing for more than 25 years are much less likely to adopt EDHRs. Dentists with young practices (10 years or less) are more apt to embrace EDHR implementation.
  • California dentists see the benefit of EDHRs in greater business efficiency, accuracy in reporting, and better communication and coordination with other health professionals and patients. They are slightly less likely to see the positive impact on oral health in the form of improved quality and access to care.
  • Just one-quarter are inclined to participate in the ARRA program, citing Medi-Cal participation as a disincentive. Those who do profess interest include current Medi-Cal providers and practitioners at community clinics, as well as rural, ethnic, and younger dentists.

The presentation opens with a general profile of California dental practices, including staff and patient demographics, payment mix, and geographic concentrations. The complete snapshot is available as a Document Download.