TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Council of the Cherokee Nation approved a proposal by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner Monday to create three new ‘patient experience’ positions to help citizens better navigate the tribe’s expansive health system.

The Council’s approval of an increase to the tribe’s health services budget will fund a patient experience manager and two patient experience navigators to assist patients in accessing the tribe’s health care system.

“Often patients struggle with navigating our health system, be it appointment scheduling or more complicated health matters both inside and outside our system,” Chief Hoskin said. “These new navigators will work alongside our current staff of patient advocates to improve the overall experience for all patients that have questions or need guidance referring to their health or the health of their families.”

Although the new positions will serve the needs of all patients, one goal of the new navigator’s program is to improve access to health care for at-large Cherokees living outside the reservation, which includes about 297,000 Cherokees.

“For many at-large citizens, a visit to Cherokee Nation to access health care takes a great deal of planning,” said at-large Council member Johnny Jack Kidwell. “For many others, travel to Cherokee Nation is simply not practical, leaving them on their own to search for local health resources. These new navigators can help at-large Cherokees in both situations and is another step forward in enhancing access to health care.”

Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said the proposal is a result of listening to both patients and council members.

“As our health system grows in size and scope, it’s important that we keep the patient at the center of our focus. No one should feel alone when they seek health care, no matter where they live. These new patient navigator positions will help ensure that no patient has to go it alone, no matter where they live.”

At-large Councilor Julia Coates praised the new positions as a way to help at-large Cherokees identify resources where they live.

“Hundreds of thousands of at-large Cherokees live in areas with limited or no access to health care provided by a local tribe or the federal Indian Health Service,” said Coates. “I am hopeful that these new navigators will develop the expertise to help at-large Cherokees identify local health resources.”

With funding approved Cherokee Nation’s health system will begin recruiting to fill the new positions. The positions will be posted to the tribe’s employment website jobs.cherokee.org

Cherokee Nation operates the country’s largest tribal health care system in the Unites States, serving 1.4 million patient visits per year across ten health care facilities and W.W. Hastings Hospital. For more information on Cherokee Nation Health Services, visit health.Cherokee.org.