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Indian Health Service Reaffirms Commitment to Tribes and Urban Indian Organizations with 2024 Agency Work Plan

by Roselyn Tso, Indian Health Service Director

As we embark on a new year, we want to reaffirm our commitment to improving the quality of patient care throughout the Indian health system.

In January, I convened leadership from across the agency in Phoenix to continue our collaborative work to address the most pressing issues facing the Indian Health Service today. Executive leadership from headquarters, area directors, and other agency leaders reviewed 2023 Agency Work Plan accomplishments, discussed progress toward our 2024 Agency Work Plan priorities, continued refining our next five-year strategic plan, participated in robust decision making on matters affecting IHS, and participated in leadership training.

IHS leadership has implemented the new 2024 Agency Work Plan and closed out the 2023 Agency Work Plan, which completed its fourth quarter and demonstrated remarkable achievements across the IHS in 2023. The 2024 Agency Work Plan describes critical actions needed to address key priorities that directly impact IHS operations, improve communications with our tribal and urban Indian organization partners, and ensure the delivery of quality, patient-centered care. Furthermore, in order to address agency priorities, the IHS will provide rigorous management and oversight of resources to ensure the health care needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives are met.

On a quarterly basis, the IHS will continue to hold strategic planning sessions to address challenges facing the agency, as well as championing the progress made toward agency goals. We will review the key priorities and action items that will guide agency improvements over the next year. We will also discuss the progress we are already making, timelines for further action, and the resources needed to accomplish our objectives.

Development of the 2024 Agency Work Plan complements activities that the agency has previously identified, including improving patient safety and incorporating critical oversight throughout the agency. In 2021, IHS developed an action plan to meet the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) criteria for removal from its high-risk list. Since that time, the agency has been working to address actions to accomplish this and IHS leadership is committed to making progress on addressing GAO’s recommendations. These efforts provide the foundation for building and implementing the 2024 Agency Work Plan. A workgroup has led each activity to identify root causes and work toward sustainable improvement to demonstrate a measurable impact on the agency. The goal is to complete the actions in the 2024 Agency Work Plan by December 31, 2024.

IHS also identified priorities based on input from employees, tribes, and tribal and urban Indian organizations that the agency has gathered from meetings, conferences, tribal consultations, and urban confers. I also gathered pertinent information during my visits across Indian Country. My goal for these visits was to gain an improved understanding of tribal and urban Indian health care systems and their needs and challenges. Much of the information I gathered has informed our decisions on the action plan priorities.

As part of ongoing strategic efforts, our quality program’s primary focus is improving oversight of quality and safe care for patients. We will continue to focus on oversight and accountability through developing policies, standardizing the IHS governance structure and medical bylaws, and strengthening IHS’ enterprise risk management program. A team of subject matter experts are leading these efforts across the agency, with oversight and technical direction by IHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Loretta Christensen.

The agency is standardizing governance across the service units in order to provide for oversight and accountability while increasing efficiency and effectiveness of governing board meetings. These actions increase the ability to take quality information submitted and review it in an efficient manner, allowing the agency to have a proactive stance on governance issues.

The IHS remains committed to ensuring that our health care programs provide safe, quality care. We are also working diligently to mitigate programmatic and operational risks before they arise. As we move ahead this year, I look forward to leading these activities as they are incorporated into the 2024 Agency Work Plan, and I will continue to share our progress and accomplishments while developing sustainable actions. IHS is providing regular updates on the progress of the Work Plan through the IHS Work Plan Status Report. IHS leadership is committed to providing improved transparency and clarity on information and initiatives that are being undertaken by the IHS, as well as in coordination with our partnering agencies.

For a preview of the key priorities identified for our 2024 Agency Work Plan, I encourage you to review our latest fact sheet.

Roselyn Tso, Indian Health Service Director
Roselyn Tso, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, is the director of the Indian Health Service. As director, Ms. Tso administers a nationwide health care delivery program that is responsible for providing preventive, curative, and community health care to approximately 2.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in hospitals, clinics, and other settings throughout the United States. She previously served as the director of the IHS Navajo Area, where she was responsible for providing leadership in the administration of a comprehensive federal, tribal, and urban Indian health care system for over 244,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.