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Recap of August Tribal Consultation and Urban Confer on the Modernization Program

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

Indian Health Service leadership delivered a powerful consultation session on August 2, full of actionable dialogue and opportunity to bring collaboration to the forefront of the IHS Health Information Technology Modernization Program. The tribal consultation and urban confer event exemplified the proactive stance to modernize health care systems to elevate services for both tribal and urban Indian populations. Key takeaways from the session shed light on the deliberate actions taken toward health care transformation throughout Indian Country.

Michael Pecos Sr., the former lieutenant governor from the Pueblo of Cochiti, initiated the event with a traditional prayer in the Keres language. This moment was a reminder of the joint commitment to the IHS vision of building healthy communities and quality health care systems through strong partnerships and culturally responsive practices.

IHS Division of Health Information Technology Modernization and Operations leaders addressed the progress of the Program, as well as gave insight into how tribal and urban organization members can get involved in the IT Modernization Program.

Dr. Howard Hays, chief medical information officer, also offered a historical overview of the IHS Health IT Modernization Program. The driving force behind this endeavor stems from the goal to build an enterprise health IT system to provide high-quality care across Indian Country. We plan to implement a commercial Electronic Health Record solution to increase efficiencies in operations and software functionality. One benefit of an EHR system is the ability to deliver interoperability for the purposes of sharing information across IHS, tribal, and urban Indian health organizations and with private sector health care entities. Through partner and stakeholder engagement, collaborative governance, organizational change management, and communication, IHS will continue to prioritize better health care outcomes and patient safety improvements.

As the IHS continues to work to improve health care across American Indian and Alaska Native communities, we have invited tribal and urban Indian organizations to indicate their potential interest in participating as a tenant on the new enterprise EHR through a Statement of Interest. This non-binding document helps the IHS pinpoint tribes and UIOs who want to learn more about the IHS enterprise EHR solution and enables interested partners to be directly involved in the Health IT Modernization Program.

DHITMO Director Jeanette Kompkoff expressed the importance of partner and stakeholder collaboration and IHS’s dedication to providing awareness through effective communication with our partners. She also provided an update on multiple acquisitions that will support the Health IT Modernization Program, including contract awards to Kadiak, LLC and Totem, LLC. Kadiak will provide project management support services and Totem will provide organizational change management support. The vendor selection process is underway for the enterprise EHR system.

Deputy Chief Information Officer and Deputy Director of the Office of Information Technology Andrea Scott explained the participation opportunities for tribal and urban Indian organizations through focus groups to ensure the entirety of tribal and urban Indian organization perspectives are represented on shared issues around the use of technology, regardless of which EHR they are using. Through the establishment of focus groups, subject-matter experts in the areas of interoperability, implementation, and data analytics will bring their knowledge to assist in modernization. The slides can be downloaded or viewed here.

I invite you to be a partner in our modernization initiative.

Interested individuals can email to join a focus group(s). We are also continuing to accept all responses to the Statement of Interest. All parties are encouraged to be a part of the conversation as we rely on the partnership of tribal and urban Indian organizations to make this program successful. We truly appreciate the time, feedback, and collaboration that our partners provide to the IHS Health IT Modernization Program.

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 and director of the Office of Information Technology 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.