FORT RUCKER, Ala. (January 9, 2014) -- Health care at Fort Rucker has come a long way since the first Army hospital on post opened its doors in 1942, and almost 72 years later Lyster Army Health Clinic is committed to providing the best health care to Soldiers, Families and retirees.

LAHC underwent a $15 million clinic transformation in the last 18 months, including the adoption of Patient-Centered Medical Homes, new behavioral health and physical therapy clinics, a new laboratory, upgraded equipment, new glass walls throughout the facility and the current construction of the new pharmacy.

The implementation of PCMH has enabled Lyster patients to see their assigned providers about 70 percent of the time or see a team provider 95 percent of the time when they are not available. Continuity of care for patients improves care quality and confidence in the Lyster medical team.

The clinic will transition to open access this year, which means patients no longer have to book appointments weeks in advance, but rather can call for a same-day appointment and be seen by a doctor in their medical home.

To better serve flight status Soldiers, LAHC consolidated them into one flight medical team. This team of specially-trained flight surgeons, nurses and medics keeps an eye on the health and well-being of all flight status Soldiers, and makes sure they have the proper medical care to continue flying.

The behavioral health clinic was the first to receive a major upgrade last year. The new $2.5 million clinic is twice its original size and now allows for new modalities, such as group therapy, tele-behavioral health and a bio-feedback lab.

"Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their Families are beginning to collectively understand that the care they receive by behavioral health is as important as the care they may receive in Family medicine, flight medicine or any type of specialty care," said Col. James Laterza, commander of LAHC, during the grand opening in August.

The new physical therapy clinic doubled in size and increased its staffing in order to see more patients at once. About $800,000 was spent on upgrading the physical therapy and chiropractic clinics. Their joint efforts to combine their specific healing techniques will help get Soldiers back to work quicker.

"Muscular-skeletal injuries are common for our Soldiers who train hard every day," said Laterza. "Our patient load at the clinic was so much that we used to send Soldiers off post for physical therapy. Our new clinic has enough space and staff to keep our Soldiers here and get them back to duty quicker."

LAHC's MRI machine received a $65,000, state-of-the-art technology upgrade. Lyster's radiology staff now can take more detailed, high-resolution images of the muscle or ligament in question and rotate it on an axis for multi-angle views.

The new system decreases the amount of time it takes to scan and create an image. This advantage shortens appointment times, allowing the department to fit more appointments in on a given day and lessens wait times for patients on the day of their appointment.

"Not only does the software give our doctors a better look at images, it also keeps us from inconveniencing our patients by asking them to come back to reshoot an image," said Capt. Melissa Riester, chief of radiology for LAHC.

LAHC also worked with Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center to maximize the use of telemedicine in radiology. This effort reduced patient needs to go outside the clinic for care as radiology images were transferred to radiologists located at DDEAMC, read quickly and returned with a clinical assessment for primary care physicians. LAHC is the first military health care facility in the region using this process to support its patients with the convenience of keeping studies in-house rather than having them go through the extra steps, time and travel associated with a referral.

To keep up with the modern designs of clinics and hospitals throughout the country, LAHC let more light into waiting room areas by installing glass walls. The new walls created a much friendlier environment and upgraded the aesthetic appeal of the entire facility.

Construction on the new $4.2 million pharmacy started in 2013 and it is expected to open this summer. The new 7,000 sq. ft. space will boast the latest in medication dispensing technology to fill prescription drugs quicker.

"Patients can now look forward to shortened wait times and quicker refills on medications," said Lt. Col. Tai Bolaji, chief of pharmacy for LAHC.

In the coming year, LAHC will receive updated heating and cooling systems throughout the facility, and also a new roof.

"As advancements in medicine and medical technology continue to be incorporated into our Army, we will always work to provide you with the best health care possible in an environment that promotes prevention and accelerates healing," Laterza said.

Page last updated Thu January 9th, 2014 at 00:00