Srmt  Erica  Oakes
Srmt  Erica  Oakes

MEET THE TRIBE - Erica Oakes, Health Information Technology Site Manager

Mar 1, 2017

(Years of Service: 30 years and 11 months)

(The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is proud to highlight Erica Oakes as this month’s long-term service employee and share all the exceptional work she is doing on behalf of the Akwesasne community.)

Erica Oakes began her employment with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe nearly three decades ago with the community’s Housing Program (a.k.a. ‘HUD’) and later with its tribally administered Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). It was a time when emerging technologies were just being made available to assist with increased efficiencies and record keeping, with the Smith Corona Typewriter’s eraser cartridge replacing the white-out applicator and correction fluid to erase mistakes. It was a time when, as she jokingly notes about technological advancements, that “We thought we had it good!”

Oakes recounted that her early experience with the Tribe entailed working in almost every tribal office before being eventually hired with Health Services as a Medical Records Clerk in August 1987. Her employment in the health field began with understanding and familiarizing herself with the new Resource and Patient Management System (RPMS). The new computer system, which initially entailed a great deal of data entry, was designed to help track a patient’s medical history and services they receive at the medical facility.

Being a quick study, Oakes soon realized the benefit and potential of the RPMS system after just two years in operation. When the opportunity arose to apply for the Information Technology Site Manager Position at Health Services she didn’t hesitate to submit her name for consideration. Of course, being the onsite “IT Guru’ before anyone even knew what the term meant, she received the job and began making improvements to fully optimize the RPMS software over the years to come.

Some of the enhancements Oakes has incorporated into the RPMS is the ability for Health Services to track a variety of medical records through the successful integration of multiple software packages; such as Patient Care Component, Immunization, Patient Registration, Scheduling, Referrals, Purchase Referred Care, Third Party Billing, Accounts Receivable, Laboratory, Electronic Dental Record, Electronic Health Record, Vista Imaging, Release of Information and Pharmacy, to name the major ones. The result of her hard work is an RPMS program that is now rated in the Top 3 by Indian Health Services (IHS) across the country.

Oakes’s greatest challenge, and subsequent accomplishment, came with the implementation of Electronic Health Records in 2009, which is intended to help health providers manage all aspects of patient care electronically. By moving towards the electronic environment, the Electronic Health Record enables patient care and documentation to occur simultaneously at multiple locations, without the need for a paper chart.

She notes that implementation of the Electronic Health Record was a challenging project, stating “Trying to implement the electronic world to a staff of not-so-technical people was the hardest thing ever. They were just as afraid as myself, but when all was done it was received well.” Her hard work in successfully completing its implementation earned her special recognition from Indian Health Service’s Nashville Area Office.

Oakes’s dedication and successful application of information technology to the medical field has made her known throughout the IHS world, which has her experience being sought to help set-up new systems at other tribal clinics. In addition, IHS regularly enlists Oakes in testing new software for accuracy and ease-of-use, as well as to assist in providing training on its operation.

She is not someone to rest on her laurels however, as Oakes recently helped implement yet another software, Personal Health Records, to provide clients of Health Services with the ability to retrieve, access and review their own health records remotely. She is also currently working on the Health Information Exchange to further help providers of care to offer better services by being able to view a patient’s complete data and medical history between IHS facilities.

In summarizing her three decades of employment with the Tribe’s Health Services, Oakes says her favorite part is saying “There is never nothing to do,” as she is always busy working on a new IT project.

Keep up the great work Erica. We don’t know what we would do without you!

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The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk People.