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Modernizing IHS Health IT with a New Enterprise Electronic Health Record Solution

by Mitchell Thornbrugh, Chief Information Officer and Director, Office of Information Technology, Indian Health Service

The selection of the new enterprise Electronic Health Record system is years in the making. While I’m eager to get started working on the new EHR, I wouldn’t change the path we took to get here. Over the past several years, we relied on research, industry and federal standards, and conversations with our partners to inform and guide us.

Leading up to the IHS decision to select General Dynamics Information Technology, Inc. (GDIT) to build, configure, and maintain the new IHS enterprise EHR solution using Oracle Cerner technology, we had:

  • Third-party research validating that the 40-year-old Resource and Patient Management System was no longer sustainable or able to handle patient files and information in the way the IHS needed in order to advance patient care and improve health outcomes across Indian Country.
  • During the research project, a survey indicated that 93% of our users agree that now is the time to replace RPMS.
  • Input from the health care and technology industry through Requests for Information, Industry Day, and an acquisition process open to all vendors that helped us purchase a solution that could grow with us and easily adapt to changing technology.
  • Lessons learned from other federal agencies implementing EHRs through our coordination with the Federal Electronic Health Record Management Office that offered ideas on things to do, as well as things to avoid.
  • Discussions with our current and future system users through regular tribal consultation and urban confer events, and feedback from hundreds on scenario-based vendor demonstration sessions.
  • A cross-disciplinary technical evaluation panel that evaluated the submitted proposals with assistance from multiple subject matter experts.

We used all this information to select an enterprise EHR that is best suited for the IHS health care system and the American Indians and Alaska Natives we help care for. This enterprise EHR system will help our patients and their providers get the right information at the right time to make the best health care decisions.

The IHS selected GDIT because it had the strongest overall technical approach, demonstrated experience deploying similar systems for the federal government, had a record of strong past performance, and included a widely adopted EHR product that was well-received by users who participated in scenario-based demonstrations.

With the selection of GDIT, we now have our Modernization team in place with our technology integrator, health IT platform, project management office, and organization change management experts. Additionally, we have the IHS Division of Health Information Technology Modernization and Operations that manages the Modernization and its associated contracts. Together, our next steps are to (1) learn and implement the technology for our use, (2) conduct end-to-end testing to create a user-centered EHR, (3) assess human capital needs, and (4) prepare system users in an effort to launch pilot sites in 2025.

Mitchell Thornbrugh, Chief Information Officer and Director, Office of Information Technology, Indian Health Service
Mitchell Thornbrugh, an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, is the chief information officer for the Indian Health Service. His responsibilities include advising senior IHS leadership on all aspects of information resource management and technology and ensures IHS compliance with information technology laws, regulations, and policies.