An Ounce of Prevention
The annual wellness visit (AWV) is an important tool for providers to track and help manage the health and wellbeing of their Medicare patients. Social distancing is crucial to combat our current health crisis, but so is maintaining continuity of care with your most vulnerable patients. Fortunately, Medicare understands the importance of the AWV, and included it in it's initial §1135 waiver so that it can be performed entirely via telehealth on any Medicare beneficiary. As of 4/30/20, Medicare further waived restrictions, and now allows Annual Wellness Visits to be conducted via audio-only telehealth (i.e. over the telephone) for the duration of the waiver.
When you conduct an online search for information about the Medicare annual wellness visit or AWV, one of the first resources you will find is an independent reference tool called Medicare Interactive. Its description of the AWV is as follows: "The annual wellness visit (AWV) is a yearly appointment with your primary care provider (PCP) to create or update a personalized prevention plan." Going by this definition, one might believe that the answer to the question "Who can perform the Medicare annual wellness visit?" is a PCP. End of story, right? Far from it.
When you think of a pharmacist, you probably visualize the person in the lab coat behind the counter at your local pharmacy. Pharmacists are always there, ready to fill our prescriptions with precision, accuracy, and counsel us on adhering to our prescribed medication therapies. But could a pharmacist also be the Medicare annual wellness visit's (AWV's) — and the time-strapped provider's — superhero incognito?
Anyone who works with Medicare on a regular basis understands how often the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) seemingly changes its rules. Keeping up with new and ever-evolving policies can be challenging, but there are a few simple ways to stay current. Look for updates quarterly on the CMS website and follow the Prevounce blog for important and timely coverage of Medicare topics, especially those that matter the most to you, your practice, and your patients.
Taking the time to prepare your Medicare patients for their annual wellness visit (AWV) can improve the overall experience. For patients, preparation helps to ensure the AWV meets their expectations, as well as feels less stressful and more productive. For you and your practice, prepared patients can expedite completion of the AWV in a manner that still meets patient needs and requirements.
A Kaiser Health News (KHN) article tells the story of Medicare beneficiary Beverly Dunn. She scheduled her annual physical exam, believing that Medicare would cover the checkup. Then Dunn received the bill and quickly learned the shocking piece of information many patients discover: Medicare does not cover annual physical exams.
The importance of utilizing preventive medicine to improve the health and ultimately lives of patients is widely recognized. However, for this potential to be reached, medical practices must be able to provide preventive care services in a financially sustainable way. We’ll share more about this later in the article.
Preventive care is the way healthcare practitioners can identify and address any health risks in Medicare eligible patients. This was a primary motivator behind the introduction of Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) in 2011.
Medicare Annual Wellness Visits (AWV) are an important part of the process of keeping patients healthy. However, the required procedures surrounding AWV appointments can be complex, so it is common for providers to inadvertently miss steps or leave requirements incomplete. If you miss a requirement once, it may become the norm for your staff to skip that step in the AWV process. For instance, you may create a care plan for the patient, but not give it to them. Or create the service schedule, but neglect to personalize it to the patient.
Are you missing out on Advance Care Planning opportunities in your practice? One of the most challenging topics to bring up with your patient is Advance Care Planning (ACP). This touchy subject brings to light the recognition of aging and dying, which is not usually something people want to think about, whether they are sick or healthy. Being able to provide valuable information to your patient will help ensure that they can make informed decisions regarding their preferences about the healthcare they wish to receive during the critical final stages of their life.