JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas, –
The 59th Medical Wing serves more than 240,000 beneficiaries with a team of only 12 Airmen and civilians who maintain medical records.
The TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration office, or TOPA, located on the third floor of Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, creates, maintains and quality checks all written medical records, and handles medical examination boards.
Before 2015, medical records were stored as hard copies. TOPA’s medical records section still manages over 19,000 hardcopy records in addition to current electronic records.
Ensuring patient’s medical records are up-to-date allows for continuous quality care, while ensuring providers do not miss vital patient information in treatment.
“Let’s say that you are separating [the military] and while in, you got a knee injury that you still have ongoing issues with, you want to keep getting that continuation care,” said Staff Sgt. Tifany Torres Mitchell, 59th Medical Support Squadron Medical Records Department noncommissioned officer in charge.
Patients will need their military identification card to obtain their medical records when going to TOPA. Legal guardians can request records for children under the age of 18. It is important to note, receiving medical records could take up to 30 days.
If patients are in the local area, the Release of Healthcare Information office will call to inform the patient TOPA has a disc with their records to pick up. If a patient is no longer in the local area, RHI will send the medical records by mail or electronically by a government-approved file transfer website.
When in the process of a permanent change of station, provide TOPA with a copy of orders and the requested medical records will be transferred to the patient’s next base. If a patient has already moved to their new duty station and does not have their medical records, they can inform their medical treatment facility that their medical records need to be transferred from their previous MTF or they can call TOPA to initiate the necessary transfer.
Medical records are held at TOPA for patients receiving care within the 59th MDW. If a patient is no longer receiving care within the 59th MDW, a patient’s record will be on hold for five years. After five years, the medical records are retired and sent to the National Personnel Records Center.
If a service member is separating or retiring, obtaining their medical records is crucial to ensure a smooth transition to Veteran’s Health Administration care. Medical records also help with assessing a patient’s disability benefits.
“[Patients need] to make sure it’s a smooth transition from their care here to veteran’s care. For example, my husband was prior military and he requested his medical records to make sure the VA is tracking everything that happened to him while he was in,” said Torres Mitchell.
For questions regarding medical records call TOPA at (210) 292-5988. For questions regarding the National Personnel Records Center call 1-866-272-6272. For more information regarding medical records read under “records” at https://www.59mdw.af.mil/FAQ/