CDM Has Developed an Algorithm to Optimize the Matching of Patients and Students

October 4, 2019

The Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CDM) has developed an innovative algorithm that matches a patient based on his or her needs assessment with students who are most in need of experience with the particular procedures associated with that patient’s assessment. Previously this matching process took heroic levels of manual effort by faculty to keep the needs of over 100 students in mind, while constantly updating that understanding as student needs changed with each completed procedure. Even with this expert effort, students could find themselves having completed a number of procedures well past standard requirements while still not having been assigned any procedures in another set of requirements.

The algorithm has been incorporated into the new intake and assessment process that CDM has established and, for this first phase, is focused on DDS students. The algorithm captures information from the intake assessment, through an electronic assessment tool, on items such as clinical diagnoses and the level of acuity and complexity of the patient. It then incorporates information from the Electronic Health Record (EHR) for the student on the current number of completed procedures or procedures in progress for various procedure types, such as complete denture, crowns, implant restorations, and class II restorations. The algorithm then produces a real-time report that shows the number of completed or in-progress procedures each student has for the expected procedures the patient will need, highlighting a set of students who have no or very few of those procedures. An administrator can then work from the highlighted set of students who are most in need of experience with those procedures and then determine which of those students has the best availability for the patient’s scheduling needs.

Screen capture of booking form
Screen capture of the patient booking tool

The algorithm keeps patient and student needs in focus while also providing an efficient, fair, and consistent matching process. The deployment to the DDS program has been very successful. As part of the second phase of work, CDM will expand the algorithm and process to various PG specialty programs. Dr. Roseanna Graham, Director of the Division of Operative Dentistry at CDM, has worked closely with the school’s IT department on the development of the algorithm and is enthusiastic about its impact. “The algorithm has addressed one of the biggest challenges facing faculty members at high-volume academic dental clinics: namely, matching the right student with the right patient to help ensure the highest levels of patient care and student educational experience,” she said.