If you have ever been to the 56th Medical Group clinic, you may have noticed there are quite a few patients there. Every one of them has a file that tells their medical history and helps doctors review what has happened. Keeping all of those files in order is a monumental task. Luckily, there is a section that is dedicated to doing just that.
The 56th Medical Support Squadron medical records section houses the medical records of the patients assigned to the 56th MDG. With a constantly revolving inventory of records, this task is more daunting than it seems. And the records section does it all with minimal manning.
“I have three Airmen, three civilians, and four contractors,” said Dane Alli, 56th MDSS medical records director. “We maintain medical records, both paper and electronic, for medical use and legal purposes.”
Approximately 50,000 records are housed at Luke Air Force Base, with the major bulk, more than 35,000, being dependents, retirees, and their dependents. They are responsible for maintaining and securing the records for doctors’ use. They are also responsible for converting paper records into an electronic format and inputting records from civilian providers.
“Medical records is one of the hardest working departments in our MTF,” said Capt. Jennifer Preyer, TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration Flight commander.
“They ensure health histories are maintained appropriately and that they follow patients as they transfer or retire.”
While doing all of this, the records section also ensures the records are sent to be archived properly. Medical records cannot be destroyed locally. They are stored in the national personnel records center in St. Louis, Mo., for 50 years. The records section is responsible for ensuring that the records that haven’t been accessed in two years are properly identified and sent to the records center.
“Medical records are the property of the United States government,” Alli said. “While we can give a copy, the records must either be in our control or retired in St. Louis.”
Along with these services, the medical records section provides patients one free copy of their records. Individuals can request copies of records and, by regulation, the office has 30 days to provide copies, Preyer says, though it typically is handled in less than 15. Though the first copy is free, additional copies of medical records within a 12 month period may be provided at a reasonable charge. The copy rate is $.15 per single sided page and the maximum charge for copies will not exceed $75.
Though the medical records staff spends most of their time behind a secured door doing work most people will never see, it is thanks to them that medical professionals in the MDG can continue patient care day in and day out. It is thanks to them that service members and their families can travel across the globe and know that their doctors will be able to continue to keep them healthy. And it is thanks to them that the retired community can continue to receive care long after they have left the service.