Indian Health Service

Tuesday - 9/22/2009, 3:39pm EDT

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Theresa Cullen is family physician first and foremost, and a technology expert second.

But that is why Cullen, the chief information officer of the Indian Health Service within the Department of Health and Human Services and a rear admiral with the Public Health Service, also is moving out on health information technology faster than anyone else.

She understands firsthand the technical, cost and culture challenge doctors and hospitals have in using health IT.

Cullen says the Indian Health Service will launch an electronic health record for its customers by the end of fiscal 2010, which will work with commercial providers, and will meet the federal definition of meaningful use of health IT.

She also will be ensuring the e-health record and other data is interoperable with the National Health Information Exchange.

Among the IHS's biggest challenges is Internet access.

Cullen says many Native American communities,especially rural ones, rely on 56k dial-up to access the Internet.

This slow speed makes running online applications nearly impossible.

Cullen says she is paying close attention to the Federal Communication Commission's work to extend broadband access.