Rural Practice Adopts EHR

Like many people in rural areas, Alaska Natives who live in remote villages have limited access to healthcare. Approximately 85,000 native Alaskans live in small villages of 300 to 400 people that are accessible only by air or water.

Partly because of poor access, Alaska Native populations have significant disparities in health as compared with the general population. For example, they are 1.2 to 7.7 times more likely to die from heart disease, diabetes, and alcohol use.

The Kodiak Area Native Association, a non-profit healthcare practice based in Kodiak Alaska, provides health and social services to 3,500 Alaska Natives. The practice handles 23,000 patient visits annually and serves Kodiak a city located 250 miles south of Anchorage and six remote villages. To serve the patients more efficiently, a new EHR system was adopted.

Providers at a central clinic and community health aides working in the villages use the EHR system to document care in real-time and to share information. The EHR system has significantly improved screening services, enabling the Kodiak Association to be the first in Alaska to reach target performance for all 21 measures defined by the Indian Health Service as required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). The Kodiak Area Native Association participates voluntarily as it is not a Federal agency.

The practice uses the IHS EHR system known as the “Resource and Patient Management System”. The system gives the team members access to real-time patient specific information, clinical reminders, population health tool and registries identifies care gaps, and communicates using email, video teleconferencing, and telemedicine. The system provides performance reports and other quality improvement initiatives that are then distributed to Kodiak’s clinical management team and board of directors.

The use of the EHR system provides better screening with screening services rising appreciably for tobacco use, alcohol use during pregnancy, depression, intimate partner violence, cervical cancer, and cardiovascular disease. The program has generated high patient satisfaction in obtaining health services and has become be more efficient during visits.

Source: AHRQ Health Care Innovations Exchange at www.ahrq.gov.

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