Integrating the old and new worlds: The example of the dental recall postcard

Integration of software, hardware and services is an important aspect of health information technology, as well as technology in general. When things are not well integrated, we notice: the automated blood pressure meter which doesn’t transmit its readings to the electronic health record; the DiagnoDent value that we have to write in the progress notes because there are no fields for it in the electronic dental record; or, the intraoral camera that does not automatically switch the imaging program to “capture” when we taken it out of the delivery tray. All these breaks in integration make us notice (and get annoyed about) technology. Technology gets in the way of us getting real work done. We wrote about some of these and other integration issues in a 2004 article in a JADA supplement. (Not to burst your bubble beforehand, but not much has changed since then.)

This situation is all the more reason to notice (and appreciate) instances of integration done well. I came across such an instance during a presentation about Dentrix’s eServices product suite the other day. It is not quite clear to me what exactly Dentrix eServices are. Dentrix’s Website on this is full of marketing-speak and thus less than useful. The gist of it seems to be anything where information gets sent around to process transactions (like appointment reminders and patient payments).

The great example of well-done integration came in the form of a postcard to remind a patient about an upcoming appointment.

Okay, so the front of the card is less than overwhelming. The interesting story is on the back.

The back of the card displays a two-dimensional barcode, also called a Quick Retrieval (QR) code, on the right-hand side. For those of you using smartphones, not a big deal. The great thing, though, is what happens when you scan the QR code: It brings up a window on your smartphone that lets you confirm your dental appointment right then and there. If I remember correctly, it also puts it on your calendar for good measure. (I was trying to get a slide with a picture of the app from Dentrix, but so far no luck.) If you don’t have a smartphone, you can use the Web address on the card to do the same thing on your computer.

The nice thing about this example of integration is how easy it bridges the hardcopy with the electronic world. Scan the card with your smart phone, push a few buttons and you can move on with your life – while not forgetting your dental appointment down the road. Wouldn’t it be great if technology worked this smoothly all the time?

All the best!


– Titus Schleyer, DMD, PhD

Assoc. Professor and Director, Center for Dental Informatics