Cherokee Nation Plans to Improve Health System as It Begins Opening New Outpatient Center

Oct 7, 2019

Cherokee Nation held a ribbon cutting Monday for its new outpatient health center in Tahlequah. Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. also announced an initiative focused on improving patient wait times and service.
Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Cherokee Nation's health system has been labeled the "gold standard" by the Indian Health Service, and officials are trying to make it even better.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said there will be a staff reorganization within Cherokee Nation Health Services, and a major goal will be reducing the time patients wait for care.

"We know what our patient wait times are now, but I think if we get the people in place to focus on advocating for patients, shrinking wait times, I think people’s experience with their health care system, which is already very good, will be much better," Hoskin said.

Hoskin said compared to national figures, their average two-hour patient wait from check-in to being seen looks good, but that’s not enough.

"We can’t be content with even being above average. We need to lead, I think, the nation in how a patient’s experience is, whether that’s the outcome, which is better health, or just what it is day to day in terms of getting in and out as quickly as possible," Hoskin said.

Cherokee Nation Health Services Interim Director Steve Jones said the tribe has grown too fast for a comprehensive, patient-centered review in the past.

"That’s the one thing. We don’t know how much access we need because we’ve never hit that cap. So, our goal is to find those areas we’re weak in and be able to strengthen those," Jones said.

Monday's announcement came as Cherokee Nation began opening its new outpatient health center. Services like optometry, radiology and pharmacy are now available at the 469,000-square foot facility in Tahlequah. Primary care and a dental clinic will open later this month.

Jones said the opening of the new Cherokee outpatient health center in Tahlequah should help get patients in faster by putting more health services in one place.

The Cherokee Nation operates the largest tribal health system in the U.S. with more than 1.3 million patient visits each year.