FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 3, 2012) -- A lot of things are changing at Lyster Army Health Clinic, but a lot of things are also staying the same, as the clinic prepares for a grand re-opening and health fair May 7 starting at 8:30 a.m.

"We have always delivered the same patient care," said Col. Patrick N. Denman, commander of LAHC, "what has changed is our model."

The new model, he explains, emphasizes partnering with patients to equip and empower them along their wellness journey -- a comprehensive care plan that goes with the patient wherever the military sends them.

"The intent is that we see you and find out what's going on in your life, find out what your goals and objectives are as far as your health and wellness and then we tailor a plan that takes you on that journey," added Lt. Col. Andrew A. Powell, interim deputy commander for administration of LAHC and deputy commander for nursing.

Patients may have noticed changes as early as January 2011 when several walls were knocked down to facilitate the consolidation of three separate clinics, the addition of more exam rooms and a transition to team-based care.

The remodeling continued, phase by phase, but the clinic never stopped delivering patient care. "We moved our teams into swing space," Denman explained. "We still met access needs and patient demand because there is a mission here. We will not impede the mission of delivering Army Aviators to our Army."

During this process, the clinic was awarded National Committee for Quality Assurance Level 3 recognition. According to the organization's website, the NCQA seal "is a reliable indicator that an organization is well-managed and delivers high quality care and service."

"NCQA Level 3 recognition is the highest that a community clinic can receive," Powell said, adding that the clinic had reached a higher standard than the Army required four years earlier than required.

Some of the other changes patients will see include a return to Family practice, a more involved nursing staff, and easier access to the medical team. According to Denman, the previous care model sent a patient to any available provider when they called for an appointment, but now, the goal is to send that patient to the same provider and provider team every visit.

"The intent is you're able to see everybody within the context of their Family," Powell added. "We have sent our provider staff back to training to learn to be able to see Aviators. That way a Family practice provider can see the Aviator and can also see the spouse and children."

In addition, nurses will now stay with patients through most of the visit. Before, the nursing staff typically checked a patient's vital signs and asked a few questions. Now they remain in the exam room to help the patient communicate concerns to the provider, take notes for the provider and then answer any follow up questions the patient may have. This allows the provider to spend the majority of the appointment time with the patient, Powell said.

Other features, such as Secure Messaging, a nurse advice line and a patient advisory council are still coming online. Secure Messaging and the nurse advice line give patients secure access to their provider team, which allows them to ask questions about medications, appointments or other concerns that may not require a visit to the clinic. The patient advisory council will be "advocates and liaisons for the clinic," Powell said. "They'll provide the voice of the patient on how we do business."

"The bottom line is we want folks to know that we are here for you all. You all are not here for us," said Denman.

"It's about relationships. It's about taking care of people. There is no more honorable work than that. It truly is work worth doing," he said, adding that the Lyster staff had worked hard to move forward and embrace the changes together.

Monday's grand re-opening and health fair runs 8:30-10:30 a.m. and features a ribbon cutting, clinic tours and exhibits, Denman said. Visitors will also be able to register for Secure Messaging as well as get more information about mail-order pharmacy, TRICARE online and the new patient advisory council.