Background. The National Health Information Infrastructure, or NHII, proposes to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and overall quality of health in the United States by establishing a national, electronic information network for health care. To date, dentistry's integration into this network has not been discussed widely. Methods. The author reviews the NHII and its goals and structure through published reports and background literature. The author evaluates the advantages and disadvantages of the NHII regarding their implications for the dental care system. Results. The NHII proposes to implement computer-based patient records, or CPRs, for most Americans by 2014, connect personal health information with other clinical and public health information, and enable different types of care providers to access CPRs. Advantages of the NHII include transparency of health information across health care providers, potentially increased involvement of patients in their care, better clinical decision making through connecting patient-specific information with the best clinical evidence, increased efficiency, enhanced bioterrorism defense and potential cost savings. Challenges in the implementation of the NHII in dentistry include limited use of CPRs, required investments in information technology, limited availability and adoption of standards, and perceived threats to privacy and confidentiality. Conclusions. The implementation of the NHII is making rapid strides. Dentistry should become an active participant in the NHII and work to ensure that the needs of dental patients and the profession are met. Practice Implications. The NHII has far-reaching implications on dental practice by making it easier to access relevant patient information and by helping to improve clinical decision making.
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