American Indian Providers Get Help With EHRs

Christine Schmoeckel of the state’s Office of Health Information Integrity was pretty happy yesterday.

“Our newest news is that we have a fourth regional extension center in California,” she said. “This is great news, that we now have four centers.”

Schmoeckel was hosting yesterday’s California health information technology stakeholders’ meeting, in part because many health IT leaders are in Southern California this week, meeting with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

The national coordinator gave the stamp of approval to the fourth center, which is designed to offer advice and technical support for the 30 rural and seven urban American Indian health programs in California.

“There is a great need for it,” according to James Crouch, executive director of the California Rural Indian Health Board. “Tribal health programs are consistently under-funded and under-resourced. So this is an important change in the management of individual patient care and provider systems.”

The state’s regional extension centers were created to help primary care clinicians set up electronic health record systems in their practices. Tribal health systems have been accessing the advice and technical expertise at the three existing state centers, but the fourth one is unique in that it’s part of a national network focused on tribal health providers.

“California has been way ahead of the curve, it felt like we were on the leading edge of change 10 years ago,” Crouch said. Many of the tribal centers here have a jump on the rest of the nation’s American Indian health centers, he said.

“At some level, it’s a Coke or Pepsi thing,” Crouch said. “You just need to pick one. The [Indian Health Service] is sort of a world unto itself nationally, but in this state, we’re a little more integrated into what the rest of the state is doing.”

The new center should bridge those two technological worlds, he said, offering the best of the national and statewide systems expertise.

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