Development of an Inter-University Oral Health Research Database

Funder(s): NLM G08 grant opportunity PAR-07-236

There is a paucity of high-quality large oral-health databases that can be used to conduct research. Many dental schools in the United States, Canada, and Europe have implemented or are about to implement electronic health records (EHRs). EHRs facilitate the secure storage and retrieval of health histories, diagnoses, procedures performed, student evaluations, billin, and other administrative data. There is an unprecedented opportunity to integrate these disparate data sources that are being collected in dental schools throughout the United States into a secure, de-identified repository that can be used to help research our most pressing oral-health problems. The dental schools participating provide an ideal resource for the establishment of an oral-health research database: the schools are geographically distributed; the patient population is generally underserved and of lower socioeconomic status; the schools all utilize the same electronic software system and standardized dental procedure codes. The study’s objective is to establish a consortium of dental schools in the United States, Canada, and Europe that actively share data from EHRs for clinical research. In the research, a pilot study was conducted to determine the feasibility of integrating data sources from three dental schools in the US.

The majority of dental schools in North America use the same EHR system (AxiUm, Exan Corporation, Vancouver, Canada). At their international users meeting, a group of researchers came together and agreed to share de-identified data from each institution. As a result, the Collaboration on Oral Health-Related Informatics (COHRI) was formed. Data was pooled between three institutions as a proof of principle study.

Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, the University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston, and the University of California, San Francisco, pooled demographic and health-history data from all new patient encounters, comprehensive examinations, and periodic oral examinations from predoctoral dental clinics at each institution from 8/1/06 to 7/31/07. Demographic and oral-health data were integrated into one large relational database.