GAO: Quality of Care Oversight Is Lacking at IHS

By Sandra Basu

IHS has come under fire for lack of oversight of quality of healthcare for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Photo Courtesy of the Indian Health Service/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

WASHINGTON — The Indian Health Service’s “oversight of the quality of care in its federally-operated facilities has been limited and inconsistent,” according to a new report pointing out the agency’s mission is to “raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) document added,

“As a result of IHS’s lack of consistent agency-wide quality performance standards, as well as the significant turnover in area leadership, IHS officials cannot ensure that facilities are providing quality health care to their patients, and therefore that the agency is making steps toward fulfilling its mission to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of AI/AN people to the highest level.”

Those findings were part of the report, Indian Health Service Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Quality of Care, which examined IHS’s oversight of the quality of care provided in its federally-operated facilities. The performance audit was conducted from March 2016 through January 2017 in response to a congressional query.

“American Indians and Alaska Natives die at higher rates than other Americans from many causes—such as lower respiratory infections and complications from diabetes—that can be mitigated through access to quality health care services, and concerns continue to be raised about the quality of care provided in federally operated IHS facilities, including misdiagnoses, incorrectly prescribed medications, and unsafe facility conditions,” report authors stated.

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