HHS Chief Technology Officer Announces Health IT Research Project at Indian Health Service

The Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (@HHSGov) has awarded a contract launching a formal research project focused on health IT modernization at the Indian Health Service (IHS).

“The Office of the CTO is a champion for human centered design and user research to inform solutions at the Department. This research project will enable HHS to test and validate solutions that will best serve IHS stakeholders, ensuring that we are meeting the needs of the community that IHS serves,” said Ed Simcox, HHS Chief Technology Officer.

A significant portion of the research will focus on evaluating the current state of health IT across IHS domains to inform a future state for health IT at IHS clinical centers. Meetings and site visits at facilities will focus on identifying clinical, process, and technical gaps for improving healthcare.

Structured in close collaboration with senior IHS staff and the Office of the National Coordinator, the contract was awarded to Emerging Sun, LLC, with subcontractors Pistis, LLC, and the Regenstrief Institute. The research project will be conducted in multiple stages during the coming year. Each stage will inform development and decision-making at IHS.

IHS provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for American Indians and Alaska Natives. It is the primary source of individual and public healthcare services for 1.6 million of the estimated 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives living near reservations and tribal communities. For many tribal members, IHS is the only source of healthcare.

By working closely with IHS and the I/T/U community while maintaining mission oversight, the office of the CTO will leverage existing knowledge and awareness of agency priorities to inform the project. Sitting in the Immediate Office of the Secretary at HHS, the CTO’s autonomy and security ensures resources are available for project completion.

Given the dynamic health IT technology landscape in Federal government, an unbiased “clean-slate” approach is required. The unique and diverse needs of the American Indian and Alaska Native community must be taken into account when assessing health IT needs. This research project intends to provide unbiased insight into health IT solutions.

In close consultation with stakeholders, the project contractor will ensure findings are tailored to specific priorities. This initiative will analyze alternatives that include commercial products, advancing current models to next generation technology, or a hybrid approach.