HIMSS24 Native American Health IT Symposium: 'Many nations, one record'

The Indian Health Service is installing its own EHR that is expected to connect tribal communities across 37 states.

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The Indian Health Service (IHS) has secured a contract for installing a new electronic health record (EHR) connecting tribal communities across 37 states, marking the first such initiative.

The endeavor was a collaborative effort involving the National Indian Health Board, tribal groups, states, and the federal government, with support from HIMSS.

The involvement of all stakeholders was crucial due to the unique governance structure of tribal communities, which goes beyond merely connecting hospitals within a health system.

HIMSS became more involved after Robert Coffey from the Iowa Tribe Division of Health approached Tom Leary, senior vice president at HIMSS, expressing the need for action.

Tribal governance in the United States is recognized in the Constitution, granting tribes sovereignty and autonomy from state laws, which can't apply within Indian Country.

Challenges faced by tribal healthcare include obtaining public health data controlled by states and insufficient funding, with IHS receiving only about 56% of its required budget.

Native American populations experience poorer health outcomes, with life expectancy significantly lower than the national average, exacerbated by historical trauma and social determinants of health.

The partnership between IHS and HIMSS aims to modernize healthcare and address interoperability challenges, with plans for a new EHR system expected to be operational by 2025, integrating Oracle Health technology.

The new EHR will handle various functions from patient registration to insurance billing, emphasizing the importance of data modernization alongside technological advancements.

The ultimate goal is to create a unified health record system, improving healthcare delivery for all tribal communities.

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