A storm is brewing in the dental world. Not just your normal storm but one massive data hurricane. Whether it’s through data collection or data mining as some experts call it.
The sharing of data or data analytics there is no doubt the dentistry industry is advancing into the information age.
“It’s important to keep ahead of the game by utilizing the computing power, and specialist IT solutions that we now have to deliver the best service we can provide as health professionals,” says Pravesh Solanki of TheFreshUK, a health and IT expert specializing in dental care.
Health data in dentistry is an amalgamation of routine care reports, personal statements, patient diaries and focus groups. Not to mention data sourced from search engines and even body cameras worn by staff. This wealth of data has led to a more evidence based approach to dentistry pushing it forward as one of the main contenders in technical advancement in the 21st century.
“Recent recognition of the complex interplay between oral and general health has acknowledged the power of oral health big data to glean new insights on disease prevention and management,” per a piece, “Impact of big data on oral health outcomes,” published in Oral Diseases.
This approach has led to a more holistic approach. Dentistry has not always been this way. Data in dentistry was once a fragmented entity where areas were lost or at best disjointed. This only encouraged the early biomedical model where body parts were studied independently of the rest of the body in the western biomedical world.
So what is the outcome of these technologies? Well, it leads to a democratization of the patients. It allows the dentist to access trends in areas such as urban and rural patients. This leads to more incite into patients backgrounds and the needs that would have otherwise been overlooked before the use of big data.
This is great news when it comes to fighting inequalities in healthcare amongst various swathes of the population. Areas, such as oral disease, that can affect certain pockets of the population more than others. Variants such as economic well being and ethnicity show trends in oral health needs allowing dentists to manage funds and resources into areas thus targeted treatments to the people that need it.
However, the use of big data is not without controversy. With so much more data available, more sensitive public data could be accessed. This could allow unauthorized third parties access to patients sensitive personal data. This not only puts the patient at risk but also compromises the confidence of the patient to be open with their health care provider.
Although this does sound like a big disadvantage. Big data does have a solution. A tier system in which personal information such as psychiatric information and HIV status is in the most secure area that must be accessed independently of the information readily available for dentists. Consent forms and an opt in system for data sharing is already established in the health care system. Not to mention the usual security measures such as firewalls and anti-virus software.
Disturbingly, however, in the US the American medical collection agency experienced a breach of 25 million peoples health care records. This was because of an eight-month long hack which lasted between 2018 and 2019.
The UK has not seen this breach but it shows that security is a big issue. This included both personal financial information as well as medical records. One can therefore argue that as long as data continues to be worth a great deal of money. It will continue to be a sitting duck for cyber criminals.
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