Going paperless in Indian country

Going paperless in Indian country

The Muscogee Creek Nation Department of Health is one of the largest tribal health systems in Oklahoma, serving upwards of 77,000 people in 11 counties.  When Principal Chief George Tiger was elected leader of the nation in 2012, a patient who needed to be referred to a specialist was subject to a 99-step, paper-based process that involved doctors, pharmacists, case managers, scheduling coordinators and financial staff. With around 400 referrals requested per week, the process was labor intensive.

Working with Laserfiche, the nation was able to collapse  the process into a paperless system that saves time and reduces spending on printing, filing, storage and shredding.

 “We knew we were behind the times, and so we just kind of started doing our homework,” Tiger said. That included streamlining workflows and moving to an online content management system.

In order to set up the system, Tiger and the nation’s IT staff worked with ImageNet Consulting, a reseller for Laserfiche, a document management solutions company in California.

“The steps are still there, but they’re streamlined through digital workflows and e-forms so that those steps take much less time than they did before,” said Dan Lundy, primary account executive at ImageNet. “That achieves the goal of cutting the time significantly between getting a referral and seeing a doctor.”

With the online referral system, patients can now view their requests for a referral over the Internet and complete paperwork online before seeing a doctor, and Health Department staff can review referrals and accompanying documentation from any location. Additionally, the new systems allows for reporting on anything from expenditures to the number of referrals by categories.

“No matter where a citizen may go, all their information is provided at any of our health facilities by just going on to a computer and clicking a mouse,” Tiger said.

 “It’s a win-win for not us as an administration but more importantly the 80,000 tribal members that we serve,” Tiger said. 

Although Tiger and Muscogee Creek Nation health officials are celebrating the progress they’ve made so far, they still have a ways to go according to Lundy.

The nation wants to expand the Laserfiche system to include human resources issues, renewal of citizenship cards and programs promoting online literacy and science, technology, engineering and math education.

“We have not automated all of the programs yet," Lundy said, "Many of the most important ones and those reaching a lot of people are still being worked on, but we do have annual meeting updates and meeting to make sure we’re on point for those updates.”

Editor's note: This story was changed Dec. 16 to correct Chief Tiger's first name.

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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