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ADA Center for Informatics and Standards

What is Dental Informatics?

Dental Informatics is a specialization within Health Informatics, a multi-disciplinary field that seeks to improve health care through the application of Health Information Technology (HIT) and information science to health care delivery, health information management, health care administration, research, information gathering and synthesis, and knowledge sharing.

The field of Dental Informatics is concerned with the intersection of Health Informatics and Dentistry as a whole. This is a growing area of interest within the profession, both in academic circles and among practicing dentists; more and more dental schools and dental practices are implementing Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems and Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) are beginning a transformation in health care communications. The demands of federal and state programs to promote EHR adoption among certain health care providers are also beginning to affect dentists across the country. As a result of these changes, dentistry is engaging information technology to meet its clinical, administrative, research, and educational needs more than ever.

The Center for Informatics and Standards

The Center for Informatics and Standards is a part of the ADA Practice Institute that provides subject matter expertise for policy development, formal comments to federal agencies on proposed new regulations, educational outreach, publications, dental informatics standards development activities, and advocacy.

ADA Center for Informatics and Standards expertise encompasses topics like

Center for Informatics and Standards staff participate at regulatory, industry, and standards groups to promote the policies of the ADA and represent the needs of its member dentists. This includes organizations such as:

  • American National Standards Institute Accredited Standards Committee X12 (ASC X12)
  • Health Level 7 (HL7)
  • The Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI)

Center for Informatics staff also participate at important international HIT and terminology standards development organizations. These include:

  • The International Health Terminology Standards Development Organization (IHTSDO) and its Dentistry Specialty Interest Group (SIG). As its name implies, IHTSDO is an international not-for-profit association that owns and maintains SNOMED CT®, a standard health care terminology used in many countries around the world, including the United States. SNOMED-CT is an approved standard code set for recording clinical data in ONC-certified EHRs. ADA's license agreement with IHTSDO ensures that the ADA's dental terminology, SNODENT®, is an official recognized dental subset of SNOMED CT suitable for use by dentists all over the world, including US dentists participating in the EHR Meaningful Use programs. As a part of the agreement, the ADA also chairs the IHTSDO Dental SIG, which manages changes to SNOMED CT's dental content. Learn more about the ADA's relationship with IHTSDO.
     
  • The International Standards Organization Technical Committee 215 (ISO TC 215). ISO TC 215 promotes interoperability between independent systems, enables compatibility and consistency for health information and data, and reduces duplication of effort and redundancies. ISO TC 215 Work Groups create, manage, and update standards for purposes such as enhancing system and device interoperabiltlity, standardizing semantic content, improving safety, security, and privacy, and managing risks associated with IT networks that incorporate medical devices. Often, HIT standards work products developed in the United States go on to become ISO standards after passing through ISO TC 215 processes.

The Center for Informatics and Standards is committed to guiding the ADA, its volunteers, and its members through significant, ongoing changes in dentistry and fostering the development of appropriate tools for the profession. To this end, the Center works with volunteers at all levels to guide policy, shape regulations, develop standards, and inform tripartite leaders at all levels. It also provides the subject matter expertise necessary to create and update many of the ADA educational resources and products that members and their employees use every day.

Opportunities for Dentistry

Currently, a significant opportunity exists for dentistry to shape the standards and technologies that it will use in the future, as well as define how they will be used. The ADA is taking a leadership role in defining dental information technology capabilities through its work in the regulatory and standards arenas and by providing its members with educational resources.

Interoperable EHR systems offer the potential to improve care quality and patient safety by enhancing both the quantity and quality of information available to providers for decision making at the point of care. Additionally, an EHR system's ability to capture detailed clinical information in a highly structured manner can enable analysis for quality assessment, identification of areas for improvement, and the design of decision support tools like allergy alerts, medication alerts, and other prompts. Visit the EHR Educational Resources page for an educational video series about EHRs and current federal initiatives.

SNODENT® and EHRs

In order to realize their full capabilities, dental EHRs (or EDRs) will need a standard clinical terminology for capturing detailed clinical data in a coded, structured manner. To this end, the ADA has developed an internationally recognized dental terminology, the Systematized Nomenclature of Dentistry (SNODENT).

SNODENT enables the capture of information at a level of detail appropriate for the provision of oral healthcare. It enables patient data to be recorded by different people in different locations, and to be combined into simple information views within the patient record. SNODENT concepts represent terms in a structured form using unique, machine-readable identifiers. The nature of SNODENT hierarchies allows information to be selectively retrieved and reused to meet different requirements at various levels of generalization.

Through incorporation of ADA’s SNODENT terminology as an officially recognized subset within the SNOMED-CT International Release, SNODENT content will be available for use by dental professionals around the world. Currently, SNODENT is available through a license agreement with ADA.  

Visit the ADA's SNODENT home page  for more details.

Resources

Contact Information

American Dental Association
Department of Dental Informatics
Phone: 312.440.2500
Email: EHR@ada.org
ADA business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. US Central Time.