EZCodes: Toward Standard Dental Diagnostic Terminology

Elsbeth Kalenderian, DDS, MPH
Elsbeth Kalenderian, DDS, MPH

On November 28, 2012, HSDM hosted an inaugural conference exploring the importance of standardization in dental diagnosis and the need for a diagnostic terminology in dentistry. The focus of the conference was the EZCodes Dental Diagnostic Terminology and its scientific underpinnings. Participants included government agency representatives, members of the professional board, payers, provider groups, electronic health record vendors, members of standards organizations, and dental school educators and deans. More than 65 attendees listened to eight speakers representing different areas in the health care professions, and participants took part in brainstorming group sessions, with the results of the groups’ discussions reported to all.

Using a dental diagnostic terminology both empowers clinicians to document types and frequency of conditions they encounter and enhances communication among clinicians, thereby enabling outcomes tracking and data sharing across sites. A standard terminology permits assessment of in-depth variations in health care, health care quality, costs of care, and treatment effectiveness and outcomes. Consistent use of a diagnostic terminology will also help hone diagnostic skills—an important benefit, as studies have shown that arriving at a diagnosis before planning a treatment significantly increases the quality of the treatment plan and, ultimately, patient care.

The EZCodes Dental Diagnostic Terminology was developed in 2009 by a diagnostic terminology research work group led by Elsbeth Kalenderian, DDS, MPH, chair and associate professor of oral health policy and epidemiology at HSDM. Catalyzed by the Consortium for Oral Health Research and Informatics (COHRI), a collaboration of 31 academic dental institutions, the EZCodes terminology has been adopted by 15 dental schools and numerous nonacademic institutions in the United States and Europe, creating diagnostic-centric care for more than 2 million patient visits per year. Kalenderian has published numerous manuscripts related to electronic health records, patient safety in dentistry, and dental education.

The EZCodes terminology has provoked great interest. Media coverage includes EHR Intelligence, Dental Software Advisor, Association of Health Care Journalists, Dentistry Today, and OSAP.org.