New NIH Grant will Boost Quality Improvement

OHSU School of Dentistry has a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to help create a framework for classifying and documenting adverse dental events, and then building a searchable repository for such events. 

Denice Stewart, D.D.S., M.H.S.A., senior associate dean for clinical affairs, and Karla Kent, Ph.D., director of quality improvement, will collaborate with colleagues at the University of Texas at Houston (UTHealth) School of Dentistry, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and the University of California, San Francisco, thanks to a $3.9 million, five-year grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

“Our goal is for all patients who visit the dental school’s pre-doctoral clinic to have a positive outcome in their oral care,” said Dr. Stewart. “The best way to ensure every patient receives excellent care is to boost patient safety and continually examine the quality of care, making improvements, as necessary.”

Under the direction of principal investigator Muhammad Waiji, Ph.D., associate professor and director of informatics at UTHealth, Drs. Stewart and Kent will participate in a comprehensive collection of data on the most pressing safety risks. The data collection will give the researchers access to potentially millions of dental records.

Researchers will define “adverse events” and criteria for which incidents qualify, including unforeseen complications, and then develop triggers that electronically flag the patient records most likely to contain adverse events. 

All identifying patient information will be deleted from the records examined in the study so privacy is not compromised.

“Ultimately, having a searchable database will allow dental practitioners to pinpoint incident patterns, identify underlying causes for any incidents, and improve patient safety,” said Dr. Kent.

Dr. Stewart noted that OHSU’s history of success with its electronic record make the dental school a ready partner in helping to forge a patient safety system for all dental schools.

“We are ready to take our electronic dental record system to the next level,” said Dr. Stewart. “The electronic record is not just for storing data. It can help us to look for patterns that we can build into the system that will improve patient safety not just in Oregon, but nationally.”