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August 26, 2019 | Value-Based Care
Annual wellness visits (AWVs) are yearly appointments with your primary care provider to create and discuss your personalized health plan. These visits are 100% covered by Medicare and are an essential part of your health and wellbeing.
No, AWVs are not the same as a yearly physical. A yearly physical is a more hands-on exam that involves an assessment of different body systems. An AWV involves routine measurements, such as blood pressure and heart rate, but is less of a hands-on exam and more of a discussion with your healthcare provider about your health goals, risk factors, preventive care needs and your wishes for medical treatment as you age.
If you would also like a physical exam or to get treatment for a health condition, let your doctor’s office know before your AWV. While AWVs are covered in full by Medicare and many other insurance companies, the addition of a physical exam or an assessment of new symptoms may require a co-pay.
AWVs are an excellent opportunity to stay on top of your health. Research shows that AWVs can also help prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease (such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.) as well as lower the risks and costs of treating those diseases. AWVs are also an opportunity to develop and maintain a positive relationship with your primary care provider, who can act as an advocate for your health needs.
To make the most out of your AWV, consider the following tips:
Tip 1: Keep an updated list of medications you take
Include the name of your prescription, the reason you take it, how often you take it and the dosage amount listed on the prescription bottle. It might also be helpful to include a description of what the medication looks like. If you take vitamins, supplements or over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers, allergy medications or antacids, be sure to include those as well. You can print out a sample worksheet here, or use your computer, phone or plain notebook to keep track.
Tip 2: Write down the names of your doctors and medical suppliers
To make sure your doctor knows who’s who on your healthcare team, it’s important to compile a list of all your providers. Do you see a cardiologist or orthopedic surgeon? Do you have a care manager or work with someone at an assisted living center? Write their names down as well as the name of the clinic. Make sure to also include the brand names of your medical supplies such as hearing aids, sleep apnea equipment, oxygen, etc.
Tip 3: Complete all necessary paperwork before your visit
Your doctor may ask you to complete a health risk assessment before you arrive for your AWV. However, some doctors may have a medical assistant complete the assessment with you over the phone. To maximize the time you have with your doctor, try to fill out these forms in advance. It’s also a good idea to write down questions you have about your health when filling out these forms.
An AWV typically includes the following components:
Evaluation of your health risk assessment: The health risk assessment (HRA) is an important form that helps your doctor identify health risks. When filling out your HRA, you may be asked about:
Review of your medical and family history: This discussion can include information about your parents’, siblings’ and children’s health, as well as your past medical and surgical history.
Medication review: Your doctor will go over the medications he or she has on file for you and compare it to your list of medications. This is also a good opportunity to talk about opioid use.
Review of your care team: Reviewing your medical supplies and other providers who regularly provide medical care to you can help your doctor better coordinate your care.
Obtain routine measurements: These should include height, weight, BMI, blood pressure and other measures that are appropriate based on your personal or family medical history.
Screen for depression and other mood disorders: Your doctor may ask you to fill out a questionnaire to screen for depression or other mood disorders.
Review of your functional ability: Your doctor will ask you about your home safety, ability to perform activities of daily living, memory and hearing. This component of the AWV might also include an assessment of your risk for falling.
Discussion of your prevention plan: Based on your health history and current health status, your primary care provider will provide you a personalized prevention plan that includes a checklist for cancer screenings, immunizations, etc. Your doctor might also talk with you about fall prevention, weight management, diet, fitness, or other topics based on your health needs.
Discussion of your advance care plan: This discussion is optional, but it may include talking with your doctor about future care decisions that need to be made, caregiver information and your wishes for end-of-life care.
If you have not had your annual wellness visit this year, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider.
“Annual Wellness Visit.” Medicare Interactive.
“Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit: What It Means for You.” Families USA.
“Your Medicare Annual Wellness Visit: Preventive Care, Health Planning at No Extra Cost.” UnitedHealthcare.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.