Finding Dental Harm to Patients through Electronic Health Record–Based Triggers

M. F. Walji, A. Yansane, N. B. Hebballi, A. M. Ibarra-Noriega, K. K. Kookal, S. Tungare, K. Kent, R. McPharlin, V. Delattre, E. Obadan-Udoh, O. Tokede, J. White, E. Kalenderian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Patients may be inadvertently harmed while undergoing dental treatments. To improve care, we must first determine the types and frequency of harms that patients experience, but identifying cases of harm is not always straightforward for dental practices. Mining data from electronic health records is a promising means of efficiently detecting possible adverse events (AEs). Methods: We developed 7 electronic triggers (electronic health record based) to flag patient charts that contain distinct events common to AEs. These electronic charts were then manually reviewed to identify AEs. Results: Of the 1,885 charts reviewed, 16.2% contained an AE. The positive predictive value of the triggers ranged from a high of 0.23 for the 2 best-performing triggers (failed implants and postsurgical complications) to 0.09 for the lowest-performing triggers. The most common types of AEs found were pain (27.5%), hard tissue (14.8%), soft tissue (14.8%), and nerve injuries (13.3%). Most AEs were classified as temporary harm (89.2%). Permanent harm was present in 9.6% of the AEs, and 1.2% required transfer to an emergency room. Conclusion: By developing these triggers and a process to identify harm, we can now start measuring AEs, which is the first step to mitigating harm in the future. Knowledge Transfer Statement: A retrospective review of patients’ health records is a useful approach for systematically identifying and measuring harm. Rather than random chart reviews, electronic health record–based dental trigger tools are an effective approach for practices to identify patient harm. Measurement is one of the first steps in improving the safety and quality of care delivered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-277
Number of pages7
JournalJDR Clinical and Translational Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • EHRs
  • adverse events
  • dentistry
  • informatics
  • patient safety
  • trigger tool

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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