Tribal communities need access to modernized healthcare
A Navajo family outside their home in Monument Valley, Arizona. The Navajo tribe is one of many in need of greater access to modernized healthcare. Photo: Getty Images
Last month, President Biden became the first U.S. president to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day, and 18 states have renamed Columbus Day to honor indigenous peoples.
But this progress has yet to produce tangible benefits for the Indian Health Service (IHS), a government agency that serves roughly 2.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives from 574 tribes in 37 states.
Why you should know: Tribal communities, among the poorest and most vulnerable in the U.S., need greater access to modernized healthcare. Among these populations, inadequate education and economic adversity often translates to poor health outcomes.
The data says: Compared to white Americans, American Indian and Alaska Native adults are:
- Up to five times more likely to die of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.
- Almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and twice as likely to die from it.
- Almost seven times more likely to develop tuberculosis.
- Nearly three times as likely to die from hepatitis C.
The challenge: With 568 mostly rural facilities across the country, IHS averages roughly 40,000 inpatient stays and 13.8 million outpatient visits every year. Most of the data from these visits lives in the Resource and Patient Management System (RPMS), a traditional proprietary health information system.
The solution: When the Department of Veterans Affairs decided to modernize their system and move to a commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) solution, IHS followed suit. Leidos, which designed and implemented the electronic dental record system for IHS, will compete to help IHS develop a new enterprise health IT platform that will improve health delivery in the decades to come.
From the source: “Healthcare IT modernization is important, but what matters most for tribal populations is the modernization of healthcare itself that new healthcare infrastructure can bring," said Donald Kosiak, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer at Leidos. “Geography should not dictate the standard of care. A modern health information system should make it easier for tribal populations to access the healthcare they need.”
Learn more about our experience in healthcare digital modernization.