Epic's key role in medical-dental integration

Epic has become a major player in the dental space as a valuable tool for dental organizations looking to integrate medical and dental care.

Several organizations have used Epic to connect oral healthcare and medical care in recent years. In 2022, San Francisco-based UCSF Health and UCSF Dentistry integrated patients' oral health and medical records into Epic's EHR system, making UCSF the first academic health system in the West to merge oral health and medical records into an EHR.

Irvine, Calif.-based Pacific Dental Services recently became the first DSO to implement Epic across its network, which includes nearly 1,000 offices in the U.S. The DSO also partnered with the Workman School of Dental Medicine at High Point (N.C.) University last year to implement the Epic EHR system at the university. 

Additionally, PDS partnered with Fountain Valley, Calif.-based MemorialCare to open at least 25 co-located offices over the next five years, each having access to shared records through Epic.

MemorialCare Medical Foundation CEO David Kim, MD, told Becker's that EHR systems like Epic have become vital tools for providing integrated care.

"The fact that we are an Epic shop and they're an Epic shop and we can share an EMR together brings a level of integrated thinking and approach and operational workflows that just makes things so much more seamless and so much easier," Dr. Kim said. "Whatever the decision-making is, it brings a seamlessness there that to the patient feels like, 'They know me, and they're going to use that to take better care of me.' And then on the provider side, it just brings in efficiency."

Epic began offering its EHR system to dental companies about 10 years ago at federally qualified health centers as the company realized the need for a dental component to its system, according Nick Marzotto, who helps lead Epic's dentistry support. 

Epic has since expanded its use in the dental industry to include about 1,800 dental practices and eight dental schools in seven countries. 

"Being able to pull the medical information for our dentists and having that data exchange is key. It's one longitudinal record for that patient, and that ensures the dentist and their staff know that whole picture of the patient …. That helps with better care coordination and referral management," Marzotto told Becker's. "There's a lot of moving parts, but we have that full suite of tools for that dental practice to run."

Mr. Marzotto called Epic's partnership with Pacific Dental Services a "success story" that taught the company more about its capabilities for dental practices.

"Their implementation really highlighted what was possible when it comes to integrated, interoperable, scalable solutions like Epic and how that can work for a DSO like themselves," he said. "A lot of it had to do with how they run their practices. There's a lot of autonomy, so being able to share the clinical information but also keep a lot of the financials separated based on the needs [and] some of the analytics on production, thinking very differently than maybe the medical space where they measure output of a clinician or their practice. That really transformed a lot of the ways we think about it and we've been able to share those lessons with the medical side too."

Mr. Marzotto added that patient care is at the center of everything Epic does, which is why the company is looking forward to working with more dental companies in the future.

"A lot of the time, you see your dentist more than you see your primary care physician, so bringing this integration together where dentists can then help be another touch point for these patients is really key here," he told Becker's.

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