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Indian Health Service Requests Health IT Strategic Planning Aid

The Indian Health Service is requesting a partner to publish a new health IT strategic plan while it is in the midst of a health IT modernization.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) is looking for recommendations from the healthcare industry to develop, enhance, and publish a new health IT strategic plan.

IHS, which provides health services to nearly 600 recognized tribes and roughly 2.5 million Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, intends to have the new strategic plan published before the end of the 2021 fiscal year, with bids due by April 12.

IHS will leverage four key factors to evaluate the bids:

  • Health IT capability and approach
  • Key personnel
  • Recent and relevant performance
  • Cost of service

“The IHS wishes to develop a strategic plan to guide its Information Technology program and efforts over the next three to five years with the understanding that decisions and efforts resulting from the plan will have long-term implications on the organization,” wrote IHS. “The culmination as formulated within the IHS IT Strategic Plan (ITSP) should paint a clear picture of the priorities that guide all who interact with the IHS IT Program.”

IHS outlined four strategic priorities of the plan.

First, IHS requested an organizational commitment to boost patient engagement. This aims to authorize patients to access affordable healthcare.

Next, IHS asked for a commitment to becoming the investment of choice through reliable business practices, quality, and innovation.

Third, the agency required an increased focus on improving IHS workforce to make it more accountable, fair, inclusive, and transparent.

Last, IHS inquired about improved communication and customer service to prove the recipient is the desired partner of choice.

At a minimum, the agency said the contractor should deliver the strategic plan document, develop an executive summary of the plan, and construct a recommended package of material for public distribution.

“The contractor shall lead production of a final Strategic Plan document that includes an implementation plan with defined milestones and benchmarks that the IHS can use to manage activities and measure its progress, including regular audit periods as necessary,” concluded IHS.

IHS deployed this strategic planning request during the agency’s costly Resource and Patient Management System (RPMS) health IT modernization.

To improve healthcare for Native Americans and Alaska Natives, a group of Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine researchers urged Congress to step in financially and support oversight of the IHS modernization.

Research revealed RPMS was behind current HIT capabilities and the system would not be viable within ten years.

However, the overhaul process is complicated because of the array of tribes and individuals the IHS represents.

Due to geographic isolation, low income, and many other social challenges, Native Americans and Alaska Natives live roughly 5.5 years less, and those individuals have a 60 percent higher death rate than other US citizens, according to IHS.

These geographic and social challenges, plus a subpar health IT system, are significant causes of this population’s poor health outcomes. That flawed system was developed in the mid-1980s and has had limited updates, improvements, or optimizations since its implementation.

The research groups identified a lack of interoperability between most IHS facilities. With many nomadic tribes constantly moving due to their ancestors’ traditions, interoperability is critical to the success of the HIT system. Without interoperability, Native Americans and Alaska Natives cannot access their medical information and family medical history.

Nevertheless, a complete overhaul of the health IT system comes at an extreme cost.

The National Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup estimated a complete RPMS modernization that would cost $3 billion over ten years.

President Joe Biden’s recent COVID-19 relief bill allocated $140 million in funding to IHS to boost the EHR system and telehealth solution.

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