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The Annual Wellness Visit and Your Practice

Every time a patient walks into a clinic there is an opportunity to treat disease at the most opportune time to promote wellness, manage existing chronic conditions and prevent the progression of a familial or lifestyle disease like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. According to CDC, [1] if everyone in the United States received basic recommended clinical preventive care, an estimated 100,000 lives per year could be saved. Preventative medicine gives aging patients a new lease on life because they become healthier, happier, and are less likely to suffer disability.

The most common Preventative Service today is Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit (the ‘AWV’). The AWV is a yearly appointment where the patient and practice staff create a personalized health plan designed to help prevent disease and disability by identifying current and future risks to the patient’s health. During the visit, practice staff reviews the patient’s family history, prescriptions, vital measurements, cognitive functions, and future screening schedule. Generally, the AWV reimburses somewhere between $110 and $180 dollars per visit.

Although AWV adoption has seen some success, many Medicare providers still express confusion or are wary of incorporating the AWV into their practice. There is an unfortunately common perception that the AWV is an isolated and over-regulated service that does not mesh well with traditional practice workflows.

This outlook does not take into account the underlying value of what the AWV covers. The AWV is not just a checkup in-and-of-itself but is also a gateway to more potential visits and services. The AWV walks systematically through common areas where health problems occur, thereby helping your practice stay vigilant about not allowing future opportunities to fall through the cracks.

Further, Medicare has completely waived all co-pays and co-insurance for the AWV. Advertising and promoting this fact allows your practice to see patients who may be hesitant to seek medical care due to financial constraints. The AWV gives these patients what amounts to a free health risk assessment, allowing them to make shared logical decisions concerning their healthcare going forward given their finances.

Other providers avoid the AWV due to the bureaucracy and changing regulations that surround it. It is true that staying abreast of changes surrounding Medicare and preventative services can be a trifle overwhelming. Traditionally, a provider had to either spend substantial amounts of time reading or being trained on Medicare guidelines or else hire an expensive consultant to guide and help manage the practice. With the greater push for preventative services as a whole, technology and computer software has begun to try and fill the information gap between doctors, Medicare and other insurers.

Prevounce makes the workflow in providing Annual Wellness Visit smooth, fast, and thorough. All questions regarding medical history, family history, medications, hospitalizations are answered completely since its digital nature prompts the Provider of incompletely ticked or answered “boxes or blanks”. Typically, these can be overlooked when using the standard pen and paper questionnaire. Blood pressure, weight (BMI), visual acuity, cognitive ability (simple problem-solving, memory test), as well as a history of falls are taken to provide a baseline. The Prevounce Health Portal ensures that the Provider is able to generate questions regarding alcohol, tobacco, depression, weight issues and keeps complete records of relevant screenings, vaccinations, and cancer detection.

Possibly the most valuable part of the AWV is that it breaks down the traditional practice-patient relationship and instead pushes the patient to see themselves and their doctor as a team focused together toward promoting well-being and preparedness in the years to come. The AWV should be used as a full health review, rather than a hands-on clinical visit. Clinical staff should focus on educational, counseling and diagnostic opportunities. If acute conditions are uncovered, the AWV can be moved or else a separate traditional appointment can be scheduled. The more the patient sees their doctor and clinical staff as teammates in a mission to stay healthy, the more the patient is likely to follow through with their health goals, and the more the patient begins to see their healthcare team as personal wellness partners instead of professionals selling impersonal medical services.