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Measuring up: Implementing a dental quality measure in the electronic health record context.



Quality improvement requires using quality measures that can be implemented in a valid manner. Using guidelines set forth by the Meaningful Use portion of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, the authors assessed the feasibility and performance of an automated electronic Meaningful Use dental clinical quality measure to determine the percentage of children who received fluoride varnish.


The authors defined how to implement the automated measure queries in a dental electronic health record. Within records identified through automated query, the authors manually reviewed a subsample to assess the performance of the query.


The automated query results revealed that 71.0% of patients had fluoride varnish compared with the manual chart review results that indicated 77.6% of patients had fluoride varnish. The automated quality measure performance results indicated 90.5% sensitivity, 90.8% specificity, 96.9% positive predictive value, and 75.2% negative predictive value.


The authors' findings support the feasibility of using automated dental quality measure queries in the context of sufficient structured data. Information noted only in free text rather than in structured data would require using natural language processing approaches to effectively query electronic health records.

Practical implications

To participate in self-directed quality improvement, dental clinicians must embrace the accountability era. Commitment to quality will require enhanced documentation to support near-term automated calculation of quality measures.

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