YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The Yokota Medical Treatment Facility is transitioning to paperless filing of outpatient medical records.

Known as AHLTA — Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application — the computerized medical records system must be online at U.S. military hospitals worldwide by December. Yokota, among the last to receive it, will begin a six-week phased implementation and staff training period Sept. 18.

The 374th Medical Group says AHLTA will increase efficiency for patients and providers. It makes outpatient records available 24 hours a day at all Defense Department medical treatment facilities and lets multiple physicians access the charts at once.

During the changeover, the length of Yokota clinic visits essentially will double, meaning fewer available appointments in the interim, said Maj. Dan Macalpine, director of the medical group’s dermatology element and the physician representative on the base’s implementation team. Clinic visits are expected to return to normal duration after four weeks.

Patients needing prescription refills during the training also are being urged to make such requests early, he said.

“We expect this process to go well,” Macalpine said Tuesday. “Patients may notice the time they spend with physicians will be a little bit longer as our medical staff becomes more proficient with the new system. And there could be a longer wait to obtain a clinical appointment. … We’re trying to do as much as we can to lessen the impact.”

Temporary reductions in patient access are necessary as AHLTA experts train medical staff at the hospital’s various clinics, he said. Immediate care will continue to be given to those with urgent and acute emergency-related medical needs.

AHLTA planning has been under way for months, Macalpine said, with several changes occurring behind the scenes, including upgrades of computers, infrastructure and other systems.

He said several recent additions to Yokota’s staff have previous AHLTA experience. The medical group also plans to compare notes with bases already using the computerized records program, he said.

Past medical histories will remain in paper medical charts.

“Old data is not being inputted,” Macalpine said. “At this point, we can’t computerize all the past visits. From Sept. 18 on, outpatient care will be captured” in AHLTA.

AHLTA also has fringe benefits, Macalpine said, including legibility. “Because they’re computerized, (the medical records will) be easier to read,” he said.

“It’s a medical record that’s going to be with the patient throughout their military career.”

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