Managing The EHR

By Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH

Many dental hygiene students and practicing hygienists view dental hygiene as a job rather than a career. Dental hygiene offers many opportunities beyond cleaning teeth for those who choose to leverage this experience when ready for growth. Students often enter dental hygiene programs with a means-to-an-end attitude and no commitment to advancing their professional careers. In her program titled “The World Beyond PMS – Practice Management Systems,” Cindy Quinn, RDH, BS, has seen many hygienists and students with these attitudes. She invites students and clinicians to alter the chapters in their professional careers by becoming involved in electronic health records management. Cindy believes that by integrating EHR (electronic health records) into clinical practice, hygienists will be able to broaden their horizons by becoming members of teams that deliver integrated patient care within the larger healthcare system. Imagine knowing that your care and your patients’ care are coordinated between the optometrist, dentist, internist, cardiologist, and hospitalist without all of the fragmentation that occurs today.

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Participants in the program will:

  • learn that CPU means “critical patient update” and will be able to connect clinical observations to dental and medical providers who need to know stat
  • discover how technology can provide medication information, correct spelling, and lesion comparison even before the oral cancer exam is complete
  • understand the value of tabulated and graphed patient data to communicate progress in homecare regimens
  • identify opportunities to eliminate time-wasting redundancies in the daily routine
  • understand the concept of a patient-centered medical home and its impact in dentistry
  • discuss the alphabet soup of the HITECH Act and Meaningful Use and what they mean for dentistry

Cindy’s dental hygiene journey reads like chapters in a novel. EHR represents chapter seven in her dental hygiene career. She completed the federal ARRA Workforce Development Program and have the ability to facilitate adaption of EHR into ambulatory care settings. Using clinical and organizational knowledge, along with presentation skills, Cindy is a change agent in revolutionizing patient care through paperless technologies. She educates both dental and medical professionals on the benefits of coordinated care that allows filing, faxing, messaging, and repetitive data entry to vanish. Patient information is available to all providers with the click of a mouse.

Cindy originally planned to become a teacher, but at the time the only demand for teaching was with special education students. She felt she didn’t have the patience to handle these special students, so she opted for patients instead. As a graduate of Northwestern University’s Dental Hygiene program, she worked as a clinician for nine years – the first chapter in her professional career. After completing additional education in business administration, she became the assistant marketing manager with John O. Butler Company as the second chapter of her career. When Sunstar purchased the company two years later, Cindy quickly had to develop management and presentation skills when promoted by the new managers. Additionally, she worked at a publishing company that produced a number of dental journals. With the combination of these two corporate positions, Cindy began to understand that hygienists need to look beyond their hands-on jobs and focus on the fundamentals of a career that involves more than calculus removal. The third chapter of her career came when Mark Hartley, RDH magazine’s editor, accepted her first article, “Practicing with the Dental Hygiene Assistant” in February 1997. She blended her passion for writing with her corporate experience and began writing marketing plans, training guides, and brochure copy and designs for several companies within dentistry. Relocation to Tucson, Ariz., brought about chapters four, five, and six. Cindy returned to clinical practice for a brief time, developed a tobacco education program through a public health grant, and presented continuing education programs to healthcare professionals on tobacco cessation. Upon completion of the grant, she became an instructor in dental hygiene and dental assisting programs. Her passion for the integration of medical and dental care through electronic health records is an outgrowth of the observations from the school clinical environment. It led Cindy to her current position at a clinic using paperless documentation to treat the working poor who need dental and medical care.

Many people describe Cindy as determined and forward thinking, whereas she consider myself a wordsmith. Her talents include framing concepts in interesting ways and enabling healthcare professionals to open their minds to embrace new and challenging ideas.

For further information about Cindy’s programs, or to provide input for her programs, contact: qwoody@gmail.com. RDH

Thought for the month: Wishing all a peaceful and joyous holiday season and all the best in 2013!

“This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year, happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays!”

–D.M. Dellinger


This month’s featured INeedCE course is “Malocclusion, the Misunderstood Disease.” RDH readers will receive a 50% discount for the month of December – cost is regularly $49, but with the discount code “ANDEC12,” cost is $24.50. If your licensing cycle is ending in December, this is a great way to earn credits!

Malocclusion, the Misunderstood Disease

As general dental practitioners, we have the opportunity and responsibility to not only diagnose malocclusion, but also to have conversations with our patients to educate, motivate, and have them act on our recommendations to improve their oral health and reduce risk factors for systemic problems. Patients are often unaware of what is happening in their mouths and we as practitioners frequently do not understand the relationship between the clinical signs and symptoms and malocclusion. This course will outline the consequences of occlusal disease on the dentition and the effects of periodontal disease on common systemic health issues. The basics of an idealized occlusion will be discussed, which will allow the patient to have the best function, esthetics, and health, providing a better chance for sustainability of the dentition for a lifetime.

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at amrdh@aol.com.

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