Skip to main content
blog

The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit: A Regularly Scheduled Service for Prevention and Wellness

Cars and I have a love-hate relationship — I love the convenience of getting where I need to go anytime I want to, but I hate them for the ever-increasing expenses involved in running, maintenance and occasional extra cost of a speeding ticket or, even worse, an accident. I should mention that three of my kids in my household are now driving: if I told you my current auto insurance bill, you would likely get teary-eyed. So, every time a vehicle expense comes up, I cringe a little about more money going into the cars.

One area of auto expenses that I am coming to terms with is regular maintenance and the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. I have learned that smaller, incremental maintenance items help keep my vehicles running well and will pay off by avoiding higher cost repairs and more challenging problems down the road.

Similarly, our work at Comagine Health with primary care clinicians has taught me some things about regular maintenance and prevention.

We humans perform better and live longer, happier lives when our health and wellness is regularly attended to with daily physical activity, intake of healthy food and water, and regular monitoring of key health indicators. This is especially true as we age. Medicare has realized this, too and addresses it by recommending and supporting the Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) available as a yearly opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries. This benefit affords beneficiaries and their providers the opportunity to review their key health and wellness indicators each year. Created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2011, the AWV is a free benefit for Medicare enrollees. The AWV is designed to encourage and support individuals to take an active role in accurately assessing and managing their health and improving their well-being and quality of life. This is akin to performing the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule on your vehicle, rather than waiting for something to break down.

As stated on the Comagine Health webpage for the Annual Wellness Visit:

“The AWV is an opportunity for providers to focus on prevention, review health history, reconcile medications, and identify any immunizations or screenings that might be needed.

“It is a wellness visit — not a physical — and can be a vehicle for good patient care. It is an opportunity for the provider to ensure that a patient's risks are accurately documented; it is also an opportunity for the patient to talk to the physician about their goals and things that are important to them. CMS states, ’The Annual Wellness Visit is best furnished to a beneficiary when their health status is stable, and they are open to discussing preventive and screening services available in Medicare.’”

Ask your primary care provider about scheduling your AWV (or equivalent for other insurance providers) so you can ensure optimal performance and peak health and wellness — you are worth it!

For clinicians interested in learning more, accessing tools and resources, or for assistance in implementing an AWV program in your care setting, take a look at our page for Strengthening Primary Care.

Comments

Picture

Christina R (not verified)

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 10:49 am

Agree! Annual wellness visits are a key part of health promotion. However, I think mental wellness is often a missing piece to this. When was the last time your mental wellness was addressed at your annual visit? Do patients view counseling as a preventative measure? Does our healthcare system view it that way?

I also think about barriers PCPs face during wellness visits. A recent study cited major barriers like time constraints, lack of resources, and provider lack of confidence in treating complex disorders (Bagayogo, Turcios-Wiswe, Taku, Peccoralo, & Katz, 2018). If we want to truly promote health and prevent disease, we need to treat the whole person, and provide PCPs the education, time, and resources necessary to address mental health.

Christina I think you make a valid point. I am currently researching about how often mental health is under-diagnosed and the damaging effects this has on our patient outcome and it decreases. I agree with your barriers, we do not give PCP enough time or resources to truly tackle this issue. I believe mental health issues are on the rise and this website :https://healthinsight.org/improving-behavioral-health-for-older-adults, gives information about a quality initiative to help combat this issue. 

Agreed Christina! Primary care providers are frequently under tight time constraints to complete patient visits that may involve complex disease disorders. With more time the PCPs could incorporate behavioral health issues into patient visits.  The annual wellness visit model could very well be the key to ensuring screening for all health concerns are addressed.

This is true.  Mental health needs to not just be part of a Wellness visit but something that is addressed every time we visit a health care professional.  In the article the author states " We humans perform better and live longer, happier lives when our health and wellness is regularly attended to with daily physical activity, intake of healthy food and water, and regular monitoring of key health indicators. This is especially true as we age. "  I would say that one key health indicator is how we are feeling mentally.  Are we stressed, depressed or lonely?  Our mental health will impact our desire to care for ourselves and do the other thing associated with good health, such as, exercise and eat a healthy diet.  As Christina stated its not just the physical body we need to be concerned with but also the mind.

Christina I completely agree with this and love the insight. Primary providers need to start addressing mental health more, but for that to happen we need to start associating mental health with physical health also. It is unfortunate how little time primary care providers are given to help people and how insurances and reimbursements don't always support the healthcare system to address mental health the way it needs to be addressed. I think in healthcare we need to start seeing the whole picture and looking at mental health and counseling as an integral part of health and screened for and helped in preventative medicine. 

Picture

Katie Bates (not verified)

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 02:28 pm

This is so true! When a patient is at the hospital they have access to not only medical providers, but also to social workers, case managers, mental health providers, etc etc. The problem is the moment they leave the hospital and see their PCP’s these resources are rarely available. We need to be focusing on prevention and health maintenance in the outpatient setting instead of emergency intervention in the hospital when things have gotten unmanageable. Instead of putting out fires what if we prevented them or at least kept them from becoming raging infernos? Somehow we need to figure out an effective system that provides mental health services that are easily accessible in family practice. Whether that means more incentives for those considering careers in mental health, better use of tele-health or mobile health units, or increased mental health screenings for ALL patients, with a little creativity/innovation PCP’s could increase access to mental health and offer much needed multidisciplinary healthcare for their patients. 

Picture

Audrey (not verified)

Thu, 06/13/2019 - 12:16 pm

This is true.  Mental health needs to not just be part of a Wellness visit but something that is addressed every time we visit a health care professional.  In the article the author states " We humans perform better and live longer, happier lives when our health and wellness is regularly attended to with daily physical activity, intake of healthy food and water, and regular monitoring of key health indicators. This is especially true as we age. "  I would say that one key health indicator is how we are feeling mentally.  Are we stressed, depressed or lonely?  Our mental health will impact our desire to care for ourselves and do the other thing associated with good health, such as, exercise and eat a healthy diet.  As Christina stated its not just the physical body we need to be concerned with but also the mind.

Add new comment