Indian Health Service to modernize 50-year-old clinical information system

The Indian Health Service, part of HHS, has begun a multiyear modernization project to overhaul its clinical and patient administrative information system, which has been in place since 1969, according to a Feb. 18 Nextgov report.

In June 2019, the Government Accountability Office named IHS' health system to its "10 Most Critical Legacy Systems in Need of Modernization" list. IHS, which provides federal health services to 2.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, is now in the planning process for the modernization effort, according to the report.

GAO's audit uncovered various inadequacies with IHS' system, such as it being coded in legacy programming language few programmers know anymore and it being installed on "hundreds of separate computers," which has caused variations in configurations at each site, the publication reports. Internal survey responses from more than 1,800 system users revealed that 93 percent felt IHS needed to change the system.

IHS has created a modernization plan that focuses on four key areas: modernization planning and execution, stabilizing resource and patient management system, infrastructure and data exchange, according to the report. The agency also plans to make its new system interoperable with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, which both are rolling out Cerner-based EHRs. Despite the agencies' partnerships with the Kansas City, Mo.-based EHR vendor, IHS CIO Mitchell Thornbrugh told Nextgov it doesn't mean IHS will select a Cerner-built software.

"I'm confident we can achieve interoperability outside of a single vendor or choosing," Mr. Thornbrugh said.

IHS plans to engage with vendors and strike a partnership with a software system developer in fiscal year 2021, according to Mr. Thornbrugh.

More articles on EHRs:
New Jersey health system to implement Cerner EHR
Cerner struggles to find developers for retail portion of campus
Cerner shakes up C-suite as company eyes expansion 'beyond the EHR era'

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