The Indian Health Service (IHS) https://www.ihs.gov continues to work closely with their tribal partners and with urban Indian organizations as well as Federal, state, and local public health officials in order to coordinate a comprehensive public health response to COVID-19.
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected American Indian and Alaska Native populations across the country. American Indians and Alaska natives have infection rates over 3.5 times higher than non-Hispanic whites, over four times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of COVID-19, and have higher rates of mortality at younger ages than non-Hispanic whites.
To more effectively deal with the pandemic, the IHS expanded access to telehealth by ramping up services and offering solutions to support communities with limited bandwidth. This was accomplished by having:
- IHS facilities ramp up virtual care services averaging 35,000 telehealth visits per month
- IHS announcing that the agency would support communities or areas that have limited bandwidth and where internet connectivity may be a challenge
- IHS commit to modernizing their health IT infrastructure and then documenting post COVID functional status in a standardized manner in the EHR so that patients’ long term effects can be captured post COVID-19
IHS has allocated $140 million of the American Rescue Plan Act funds for IT, telehealth infrastructure, and the IHS EHR. Of the $140 million, the IHS will allocate $67 million to IHS federal health and tribal health programs, $3 million to support urban Indian organizations, and $70 million for IHS EHR modernization.