Federal agencies join ADA panel to address information exchange

Association highlights importance of interoperability

The ADA hosted a virtual panel discussion March 13 on dental interoperability and data exchange, showcasing gaps and opportunities related to dental health information exchange and access.

The event, featuring experts from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights and the Bureau of Justice Administration, highlighted opportunities for advancing standardized health information exchange and for regulating the adoption of those standardized exchanges to support seamless health care delivery.

Al Taylor, M.D., medical informatics officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, emphasized the importance of dental industry participation to enhance the United States Core Data for Interoperability to include more dental health data elements. Dental software vendors can currently pursue ONC certification to demonstrate their ability to use and exchange common healthcare data, such as medications, conditions, and allergies.

Dr. Taylor addressed information blocking, which is a practice that inhibits the access, exchange or use of health information. Addressing concerns about misleading information related to compliance, he stressed that no specific technology either prevents or assists in meeting these requirements. The ONC and ADA have a variety of resources available regarding information blocking.

Natalia I. Chalmers, D.D.S., Ph.D., chief dental officer at CMS, cited the siloed nature of dental health information technology as one of the main barriers between dental care delivery and the rest of health care. In particular, the inability of a health system to easily refer a patient to a dentist and the difficulty of information exchange between medical and dental systems can lead to unmet needs and risk of otherwise-preventable complications.

David Lewis, senior policy advisor with the Bureau of Justice Information, discussed the role of prescription drug monitoring programs in combating opioid misuse. Resources exist to allow for software to integrate with enhanced prescription drug monitoring program with a one-click query to ease the burden for a provider’s workflow. Data sharing across state lines removes barriers and expands access for providers to assist in safe prescribing, he said. He encouraged providers to communicate the need for these tools within their systems.

Peyton Isaac of the Office of Civil Rights discussed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and how it factors into interoperability discussions, particularly as it relates to patients’ right to access their own health data. Ms. Isaac noted, however, that patients must stay informed about how their health information is protected. Some health technology, such as third-party health fitness monitoring applications are outside the scope of HIPAA and with the rise of telehealth patients may also have concerns about how their provider is maintaining confidentiality and security. OCR encourages consumers to always review privacy notices and be aware of how their health information is being used.

“The ADA's panel discussion concluded with a message that integrating dental health data into broader health information environment is essential for appropriate treatment at the right time for comprehensive patient care,” said Jennifer Thompson, D.D.S., chair of the Digital Dentistry Technology and Innovation Subcommittee of the ADA Council on Dental Practice.

“Ultimately, the discussions emphasized the need for continuous collaboration between dental professionals, health information technology developers and regulatory bodies to drive interoperability, improve access to dental health services and ensure that dental practices are equipped with the necessary tools and information to participate fully in the digital health care ecosystem. Stakeholders are encouraged to engage in ongoing dialogues and contribute to the development of standards that create the building blocks of accountability to shape the future of dental health information technology.”

For more information on participating in dental interoperability related standards, email

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