At the recent TribalNet 2019 conference IT teams from Native American tribes and nations across the United States convened to showcase their healthcare IT successes, share best practices, and learn how new solutions will continue to improve the quality of care. According to Mike Day, CEO and founder of TribalNet, IT has helped tribal healthcare and social services evolve rapidly in recent years. “Electronic Healthcare Records (EHRs) are now common place in tribal healthcare and one of the largest items for tribal IT teams to manage,” he shared in a post-event interview.
And while this is good news, in terms of delivering integrated care to tribal members, it does present some challenges. “There are two significant obstacles that tribes face in making best use of EHRs – the first is ensuring access to high-speed Internet across the entire membership and the second is having the data management capabilities to integrate patient data,” shared Day.
While neither of these challenges is unique to tribes, what is unique are the additional layers of data governance that are often required. “Self-sufficiency is a fundamental part of tribal identity and that doesn’t just include the goal of financial self-sufficiency,” said Day. “It also includes data sovereignty and keeping information about members within tribal control.”
Despite this cautious approach to data mobility, many tribes are beginning to explore the possibility of cloud-based data storage and management solutions. “There’s a big push towards IT modernization to support the development and delivery of healthcare solutions that’s being supported by Indian Health Services,” shared Elizabeth Kay, Federal Account Manager, Civilian Agencies at NetApp who attended TribalNet 2019. “Not only are tribes looking at new connected healthcare facilities, but they’re looking at delivering care via telehealth and telemedicine services to ensure all members can access the highest quality care.”
One of the connected healthcare facilities was recognized with a TribalNet 2019 Industry Award at the conference is the Cherokee Nation’s tribal outpatient health facility. “Over the past two years, the Cherokee Nation Health IT department has been heavily involved in planning, advising and seeing this state-of-the-art facility to fruition,” shared Day. “The Cherokee Nation Health IT team, led by CIO, Donnie Parish, has not only helped increase patient access to care, but has also improved data integrity. With better data it’s possible to analyze performance to continually improve the quality of care received by members.”
With more tribes exploring the opportunities to move services online to better serve members, the focus will need to be not only on the front end of these initiatives, but also on the IT infrastructure that supports them. “Tribes recognize the value of these data-driven initiatives to driving innovation and delivering services to their members,” shared Kay. “Events like TribalNet provide an important opportunity to connect, collaborate, share, and inspire so that more success can be accomplished more quickly for the good of all.”
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