Columbia launches new Epic-enabled Center for Precision Dental Medicine

University will be among the first academic medical centers to unify dental and medical EHRs, officials say, and will use predictive analytics to study links between oral health and overall wellness.
By Mike Miliard
12:16 PM
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Columbia University College of Dental Medicine this week announced that it will establish a new Center for Precision Dental Medicine, which will make heavy use of technology to enable data-driven research, advancing understandings about the link between dental and overall health.

By applying analytics to multiple data streams, including both medical and dental electronic health records, the center aims to advance education and bring oral health care into the age of precision medicine, officials say.

Christian Stohler, Dean of the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, said the new center will deploy "digital technology and information science to stretch the boundaries of dental research, relating oral care to overall health care, and putting the 'mouth back into the body.'"

[Also: Call for speaking proposals: HIMSS Precision Medicine Summit]

The school is planning several initiatives over the next two years to help break down some of the longstanding silos between medicine and dentistry –boosting the use of predictive analytics for better disease prevention and helping improve dentistry's standing for the transition to value-based care.

"Deep data mining could pave the way for systems of care that continually assimilate new evidence showing which treatments are most effective, offering personalized diagnoses and treatment plans based on thousands of parameters," said Stohler.

The College of Dental Medicine will be among the first academic dental institutions to unify dental and medical patient records in Epic electronic health records, officials say – enabling them to be shared among clinicians at Columbia, NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Medicine and Harlem Hospital.

Physicians and dentists usually work independently of each other, but this integration will offer a two-way flow of information to help caregivers detect and manage interrelated chronic conditions. Dentists are often the first to notice oral conditions that can be related to chronic diseases, such as diabetes and certain cancers.

Clinicians will also be able to access some patients’ genomic information – when it's voluntarily shared with the school – to help tailor personalized treatments.

Columbia is also aggregating anonymized data from patient visits to help researchers study evidence-based connections between oral and overall health, procedures and outcomes, stress levels and health, among the range of topics, officials say, with the aim of fostering more real-time provider feedback and predictive analytics for precision care.

The Center for Precision Dental Medicine also aims to drive improvements in education, through tools such as video cameras, mobile devices and live-streamed real-time procedure data. It will also deploy new dental tools that come equipped with RFID technology to show how procedures are performed for better assessment and faculty feedback.

With an eye toward financial and operational efficiencies, it also plans to roll out several new technologies to track instrument and supply use, ensure safety precautions, address patient wait times to helping future dentists better manage costs and improve patient satisfaction. Dentistry is also moving toward value-based reimbursement, officials point out, and predictive analytics and precision-based care will toward those goals.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com