Electronic Health Records Make Cherokee Nation Health Care Easier, More Seamless

electronic recordsGuest Commentary

Published September 14, 2015

With today’s modern technologies, it seems almost everything can be done online. Now, count your Cherokee Nation health care among those things done with greater ease, thanks to technology.

Transitioning Cherokee Nation data into the modern era is critical for the tribe to be proficient in providing critical services to our citizens. That’s why we’ve made recent digital upgrades a critical area.

The Cherokee Nation health system, the largest tribally operated health system in the United States with more than one million patient visits annually, recently embarked upon an effort to upgrade to electronic health records. This moves our eight health centers and W. W. Hastings Hospital into a new era of ease and efficiency.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

The transition from the old system to the new system requires some patience. Change and modernization are not always easy, but in the end we will be more efficient and effective with the delivery of health care. To me, that is one of the most important things we can do.

Once fully transitioned, this will allow patients to access medical records from their computers or even their smartphones. That means faster and more complete access to test results, diagnostic records and treatment history. This makes it easier for patients to actively participate in their health care by creating more direct engagement and better coordination with their caregivers.

Cherokee Nation health centers will soon have portals for self check-in and patients will be able to schedule appointments and view their records online. Patients will also be able to use the system to renew prescriptions, view X-rays, check medical records, review visit summaries and read instructions from doctors.

This is revolutionary compared to the old system. It also empowers our citizens to be more in control of their health care by having direct access to their own medical data.

Health care customer service for our Cherokee people has been stuck in a bygone era, making it hard for patients and health care providers to communicate and share information. This new system conforms to today’s modern, electronic world.

Currently, half of Cherokee Nation’s patient health records are paper and half are electronic, and many patients have multiple charts at multiple Cherokee Nation health centers. That made it difficult to access all of a patient’s files quickly or even to share information between health professionals.

The new electronic health record system creates one universal chart number for each patient, easily shared not just within our health system, but also with outside hospitals for contract health services.

Lab work and radiology results will post electronically as soon as they’re available. Ultimately, doctors will have more accurate data at their fingertips, which means making better decisions for overall patient health care.

We are excited about these changes and hope you, our citizens, are too. Even though culture and tradition are the foundation of our tribe, it is extremely important for us to use technology to bring our people together and to make our services more efficient and convenient.

I look forward to this new system making health care in the Cherokee Nation more navigable, more pleasant and more efficient.


Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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