Predictions by Dr. Donald DeNucci, Program Officer for Practice-Based Clinical Research
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
In addition to overseeing the PEARL Network* and two other NIDCR-funded, practice-based research networks, Dr. DeNucci administers a practice-based research network for the Veterans Administration, has been a practicing dentist and periodontist for more than 38 years, and has conducted clinical studies on periodontal disease and chronic pain. His predictions on the future of conducting clinical studies in dental offices are presented here.
In-office clinical research will become commonplace in the next decade, with practicing dentists using large electronic networks to share findings about patient treatments, Dr. Donald DeNucci predicts.
"Clinical research has the potential to become an integral part of future daily practice, just as infection control is today," says Dr. DeNucci, adding that in-office research findings could contribute to improvements in the quality of care being provided to the public.
Today, the PEARL Network is helping to lay the groundwork for wider use of in-office clinical research in the future by developing and conducting peer-reviewed clinical studies that are important to practicing dentists, and by demonstrating that subject recruitment and data gathering can be successfully integrated into day-to-day practice.
"With PEARL," says Dr. DeNucci, "we've seen that a formal research network can create an infrastructure that facilitates and supports the collection of valuable data at the point of care."
The core of this infrastructure is the web-based system for data capture, verification, and distribution developed by the EMMES Corporation, the contract research organization helping PEARL manage its studies.
In August, the federal government announced grants of almost $1.2 billion to help healthcare providers and hospitals develop an electronic health record and begin switching from a paper-driven system to an electronic one over the next several years. The American Dental Association is working to develop the oral health components of such a record. Dr. DeNucci believes that a move toward electronic health records will result in more dentists becoming familiar with data-gathering technology.
An increase in the number of dentists working in large group practices is also likely to spur the adoption of technology that facilitates in-office research. Unlike solo practitioners, who don't generally need to
communicate with other practitioners on a regular basis, dentists in large groups will need to transmit laboratory test results, treatment outcomes, and other clinical information in a uniform fashion from the point of care. This technology could easily be adapted to report in-office clinical trial findings, as well,
Dr. DeNucci believes. Thus, practicing dentists could rapidly transmit data from research studies to other
practitioners, oral health advocates, and policy makers, enabling a more rapid translation of research findings into clinical practice.
*In 2005, NYUCD received a $26.7 million award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to establish a regional practice-based network, PEARL Practitioners Engaged in Applied Research and Learning.