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Health | Opinion
Mark Trahant: Business model for Indian Health Service


"What is the business model for the Indian health system?

On the surface this is a preposterous question because the U.S. government promised to fund the health care needs for American Indians and Alaskan Natives. It’s also supposed to be a simple business: Congress funds the system (the Indian Health Service, tribal contract facilities and urban programs), the agency spends that budget, and patients are treated.

But that’s why the question is not outlandish. The Indian health system has never had enough money – and therefore it’s essential to secure as many resources as possible in order to effectively treat the most patients.

“As we look at the Indian Health Service, we need to think of it as a business,” said Yvette Roubideaux, M.D., director of the Indian Health Service. “A lot of people think of the Indian Health Service as a service. It’s a service that provides health care to American Indians and Alaskan Natives. People who work in IHS think of their positions not just as jobs, but also as something important personally. Many people feel like they are on a mission working for the Indian Health Service – and I think that’s great. But I also think we have to recognize that we are a health care system – and that we’re a business. We have to look at how we run our organization, to improve the way we do business.”

Roubideaux calls this “Internal IHS Reform.” She began the business case by gathering data, listening to tribes and IHS employees. She said that means “to look at what we do well and also to look at what we don’t do well.” And then figure out where the tribes and the staff want to start with internal agency reform."

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The business model for Indian health (Mark Trahant 1/11)

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