6 Benefits Every Physician Must Know about Annual Wellness Visits

As Healthcare evolves from the fee-for-service model to the value-based model, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has instituted various programs to remedy gaps in care. One of these programs is the Annual Wellness Visit (AWV). Instituted in 2011, the AWV is 100% covered by Medicare, and involves several screenings and tests that culminate in personalized prevention plan.

The AWV is separate from a normal physical, and can only be conducted once over a 12 month period. Additionally, the AWV does not encompass care for a problem-oriented visit. Rather, the AWV is specifically for discussions and screenings of the patient’s current condition, as well as steps the patient can take maintain or improve their health.

The adoption of Medicare’s annual wellness visit among primary care practices was associated with positive financial gains, according to a study published in Health Affairs. For the study, researchers analyzed national Medicare claims data for 2011-15 to assess wellness visit adoption and its effects. The study involved a 20% sample of Medicare beneficiaries.

So, here are six things to know about Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visits.

  1. Medicare’s annual wellness visits, are available to beneficiaries enrolled in Part B for more than 12 months. According to the Medicare website, the visits aim to help beneficiaries update or develop a preventive care plan so they stay healthy as possible. The first year of enrollment, Part B beneficiaries are eligible for a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit.
  2. More than half of practices (51.2 %) identified in the study had not adopted annual wellness visits by 2015. Researchers defined adopters as practices that provided the service to at least a quarter of their eligible patients — 23.1%of primary care practices identified in the study met this criteria.
  3. Practices that cared for underserved populations, such as racial minorities, those enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, and rural residents, saw lower numbers of annual wellness visits.
  4. Researchers said practices that adopted annual wellness visits appeared to use those preventive-focused visits rather than visits based on a specific health issue. These practices saw increased primary care revenue compared to practices that didn’t use annual wellness visits.
  5. The study also found practices that used annual wellness visits saw “improved stability of patient assignment and a modestly healthier patient mix as indicated by Hierarchical Condition Category risk scores.”
  6. The study’s authors concluded: “Policy makers should consider ways to encourage uptake of the visit or other mechanisms to promote preventive care in underserved populations and the practices that serve them.”
6 Benefits Every Physician Must Know about Annual Wellness VisitsClick To Tweet

Moreover, there are six clear benefits for a patient engaging in the Annual Wellness Visit:

  1. For one, the visit reviews the patient’s personal and family medical history, along with a discussion of potential complications the patient is at-risk for. The visit also involves a cognitive screening, a depression screening, and other routine health measurements such as weight, height, and blood pressure etc.
  2. During the AWV, the medical professional will detail any future screenings, and create and discuss a care plan for the future. This highly personalized care plan gives the patient access to incredibly valuable health advice from their physician or other qualified medical professional.
  3. The AWV can also include Advanced Care Planning, which can help a patient plan out their healthcare if they are unable to speak for themselves.
  4. The AWV also presents great benefits for the practice as well as the patients.
  5. The AWV increases a patient’s compliance with a provider’s advice, prescriptions, and care plan. The subsequent result will both improve a patient’s health as well as a patient’s happiness, and ultimately lead to more referrals and more patients coming to a practice.
  6. The AWV also gives a provider the opportunity to a get a more complete picture of their patient’s health, helping their future diagnoses and medical advice.

The AWV provides immeasurable benefits for both the provider and the patient. Although Medicare pays for all AWV for Medicare patients, the visit also can help younger patients not enrolled in Medicare.

Since other commercial payers cover wellness visit, younger patients can also receive the precautionary screenings and personalized care plans to improve their own health. All in all, the AWV can aid all patients who hope to improve or maintain their health in addition to providing physicians with additional revenues.