Center for Dental Informatics

Contact: Titus Schleyer, DMD, PhD: For immediate release (09/15/2009)

Dr. Thankam Thyvalikakath received K08 award for risk assessment for periodontal disease

PITTSBURGH, September 15 - Thankam Paul Thyvalikakath, B.D.S., M.D.S., M.S., assistant professor, Dental Public Health and Information Management, University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, has received a Mentored Clinical Scientist Award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The $407,641 award will support Dr. Thyvalikakath’s research to develop effective methods to integrate decision support systems in general dental practice and measure its impact in enhancing preventive management and improving patient outcomes.

"Dr. Thyvalikakath's research on the implementation and evaluation of computer-based risk assessment is timely and innovative. Today's increased focus on health information technology means that we have to figure out what works and what doesn't in terms of helping clinicians make better diagnostic and treatment decisions,” Dr. Thyvalikakath’s advisor, Dr. Titus Schleyer says. “To date, very few informatics tools in dentistry have been evaluated on their clinical efficacy. This is a void that Dr. Thyvalikakath’s project will help fill.”

As a trainee in the University of Pittsburgh’s Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Scholars Program, Dr. Thyvalikakath conducted seminal research on dentists' cognitive processes during diagnosis and treatment planning, and developed novel approaches to presenting patient information in electronic dental records. “We have to find out what dental practitioners need and how we can support them best with informatics tools,” she says. “The ultimate goal of our research is to help improve oral health. One way of doing that is to help practitioners make better decisions.”

The objective of Dr. Thyvalikakath’s research project is to integrate a computer-based risk assessment tool, the Periodontal Risk Calculator (Previser Corp., Mount Vernon, WA), with an electronic dental record system, Dentrix (Henry Schein, American Fork, UT) and measure its impact on clinicians’ decision-making. The three specific aims in this project are: 1) assess the beliefs, knowledge and attitudes of clinicians about risk-based diagnosis and treatment; 2) evaluate the change in clinicians’ decision-making when they have access to information about risk for developing periodontal disease; and 3) integrate the risk assessment tool with Dentrix and perform a feasibility study assessing the effectiveness of risk-assessment tool for decision-making in a dentist’s office.

More details about NIH K08 awards are available in the program announcement.