“Interconnecting Dental & EHR Data for Sjögren’s Research” uncovers vital links between oral health and systemic conditions. Regenstrief’s study reveals disparities in documenting Sjögren’s between dental and medical records, underscoring missed preventive care opportunities. The research identifies early signs like joint pain, pivotal for early diagnosis. Collaboration between dental, medical, and pharmacy domains aims to establish predictive biomarkers through saliva testing, enhancing Sjögren’s management.
Regenstrief’s groundbreaking study delves into merging dental and electronic health records, shedding light on the intricate relationship between oral health and Sjögren’s syndrome. Despite oral health’s impact on systemic well-being, siloed data between dental and medical sectors impedes comprehensive care. The study’s retrospective analysis reveals the underrepresentation of Sjögren’s diagnoses in dental records, emphasizing the urgency for streamlined data exchange. Recognizing early symptoms like joint pain serves as a gateway to early intervention and improved patient outcomes.
Despite the interconnectedness of oral health and overall well-being, the segregation of dental records and EHR data across healthcare realms poses significant obstacles to comprehensive patient care and research endeavors.
Studies have long suggested a correlation between oral health and conditions like heart disease, clogged arteries, stroke, and blood sugar level control. For instance, oral bacteria-induced inflammation and infections have been linked to these systemic health issues. Moreover, individuals with gum disease often face challenges in managing their blood sugar levels effectively.
A recent Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Dentistry study explores the amalgamation of dental and EHR data to enhance care for individuals grappling with Sjögren’s, a condition where the immune system targets moisture-producing glands in various body parts like the eyes and mouth. Despite diligent oral care, many impacted individuals lose teeth, and additional symptoms such as joint and muscle pain often accompany the disease.
Presently, no cure exists for Sjögren’s, emphasizing the importance of symptom management and complication prevention. This condition affects an estimated four million Americans, with many others possibly undiagnosed.
Dr. Thankam Thyvalikakath, DMD, MDS, PhD, a study author and director of dental informatics at the Indiana University School of Dentistry and Regenstrief Institute, highlights the significant issue of delayed diagnoses among individuals with Sjögren’s. Often, symptoms like dry mouth, frequently observed in dental patients, are erroneously attributed to medications or aging-related hormonal changes instead of being linked to Sjögren’s.
Diagnosis delays can lead to irreversible damage across various body systems, including extensive tooth loss, by the time Sjögren’s is confirmed. Previous research on oral health in Sjögren’s patients primarily involved prospective studies based on established clinical criteria. However, Regenstrief’s retrospective study marked a milestone by identifying Sjögren’s diagnoses within dental patients’ EHR data.
Leveraging the Indiana Network of Patient Care database, a repository of patient data from Central Indiana healthcare systems, this study uncovered a stark information gap: only 31% of patients diagnosed with Sjögren’s in their EHR had corresponding documentation in their dental records.
This discrepancy underscores the challenge wherein dentists heavily rely on patients to disclose their medical conditions, leading to missed opportunities for preventive dental care among individuals with Sjögren’s. Communication lapses between dental and healthcare providers further exacerbate treatment delays, with dentists typically waiting over a week to access relevant EHR data.
The historical separation between medical and dental care shaped the initial design of electronic dental and health records, prioritizing domain-specific functions over interoperability. However, recent efforts have spotlighted interoperability enhancements, aiming to bridge the data gap between these systems. Establishing health information exchanges (HIEs) at regional or statewide levels could facilitate seamless data exchange among healthcare professionals.
The study unveiled a predominantly female demographic among Sjögren’s diagnoses, aligning with previous research. Notably, over 30% of these women reported joint pain, muscle pain, and fibromyalgia before their Sjögren’s diagnosis, potentially serving as early indicators of the disease.
Dr. Thyvalikakath and her team are gearing up for further research aiming to identify early biomarkers for Sjögren’s. They plan to train dental students and faculty in practice-based research, emphasizing interprofessional care to manage these conditions effectively. Collaborating with the IU School of Medicine’s rheumatology department and Purdue College of Pharmacy, they will conduct a longitudinal study measuring serum and salivary markers in susceptible dental patients.
The study will recruit women aged 30 and above diagnosed with fibromyalgia, joint pain, or fatigue. Monitoring these patients over several years, the research aims to identify potential chemical changes in saliva that could serve as early markers for Sjögren’s, even before dry mouth symptoms manifest.
Patients displaying certain markers will undergo telehealth consultations involving rheumatologists, pharmacy researchers, and dental providers to discuss diagnosis and management plans.
Regenstrief’s pioneering work not only spotlights the critical linkage between dental and overall health but also underscores the need for improved data sharing and collaborative care models to enhance patient outcomes in conditions like Sjögren’s.
Regenstrief’s paradigm-shifting research showcases the pivotal role of integrated dental and EHR data in revolutionizing Sjögren’s management. Addressing disparities in documenting Sjögren’s emphasizes the necessity for proactive preventive care strategies. Early symptom recognition becomes integral, driving the quest for predictive biomarkers via saliva testing. Collaborative efforts among dental, medical, and pharmacy realms mark a promising approach for identifying and managing Sjögren’s, underscoring the potential impact of interdisciplinary research in transforming patient care.