By Russell Sellers, Army Flier StaffSeptember 16, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Lyster Army Health Clinic is making urgent care faster and more reliable for patients, clinic officials said.
Maj. Bonnie Buckhalt, Lyster Army Health Clinic Managed Care Division chief, said patients who need immediate care can seek treatment at any of six local urgent care centers located in Enterprise, Dothan, Daleville and Ozark. Patients who go to these centers should expect the same level of care they would receive at LAHC.
"Other than the location, the care should be the same," she said. "Patients can go to any one of the centers that are networked to us and the provider will take care of whatever their needs are."
The urgent care facilities are there to help during the times Lyster is closed, like weekends and holidays. While it is called "urgent care," Buckhalt said it isn't necessarily for immediate emergencies.
"If someone is in dire need of help, they should go to an emergency room," she said. "If it's something that needs to be seen within a 24-hour time period, patients should call and make an appointment either with Lyster or an urgent care facility."
Lyster patients who are concerned about off-post care facility costs have little to worry about, Buckhalt said.
"If someone goes to the emergency room off-post, the doctors there will code it a certain way so that we can reimburse the patient. If it's coded as an emergent issue, the patient will never even see a bill," she said. "We've never had a billing issue."
Patients can call the Lyster appointment line at 255-7000 to request an appointment and staff can provide them required referrals and the name and location of the closest urgent care facility.
"These facilities are a mix of walk-in and by appointment, so it's best to call ahead and make an appointment," she said. "This can greatly reduce waiting time."
As influenza season approaches, Lyster staff expects to see an increase in appointments and the higher number means wait times could also increase, Buckhalt said. This is one of the primary reasons patients are encouraged to use urgent care facilities, when necessary.
Buckhalt has some personal experience with the urgent care facility system. She had to take her daughter during a non-emergency situation when Lyster was closed.
"I wasn't sure what the problem was, but it wasn't something that needed an emergency room visit," she said. "I called ahead and was able to be seen quickly."
According to Martha Frausto, LAHC public affairs officer, patients who have sought treatment from facilities off-post are satisfied with the care they've received.
"Patients who have been referred to urgent care facilities have reported positive interaction with those facilities," she said. "If anyone has any problems at one of the facilities, they should let us know."
Lt. Col. Wendy Campbell, Nursing and Patient Services deputy commander, said the new urgent care facility system is working well for LAHC staff as well.
"It's giving patients more options to choose from," she said. "The benefit is, particularly at times when we're short on provider staffing, it gives the patients the ability to get the acute care they need when we don't have appointment availability for them."
Campbell added that having the urgent care facilities in the area is decreasing the number of emergency room visits from post residents.
"Now, instead of having to drive and not wanting to drive because it's easier to go to the emergency room, patients are able to make appointments with a facility that's close by and get the care they need."
Non-urgent patients who want to be seen by their primary care managers can still schedule appointments at Lyster by calling the appointment line or visiting www.tricareonline.com. For urgent care facility information, visit www.rucker.amedd.army.mil/information/urgentcare.html.
For more information, call 255-7229 or 255-7337.