Getting older has a lot of advantages, and if you’re enrolled in Medicare, an Annual Wellness Visit is one you might be overlooking. This no-cost, yearly check-in with your primary-care provider puts prevention at the top of your to-do list.
“The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is a unique thing to Medicare,” explains Millennium Physician Group Family and Sports Medicine Physician Patrick Murray, MD. “It’s when we get to really spend a lot more time working on ways to help prevent problems for the patient.”
Since 2011, Medicare has paid for patients to meet with their doctor once a year and plan the best ways to monitor their health needs. The visit is an opportunity for providers to focus on aspects of preventive care like evidence-based screening services, personalized health risk assessments, and advance care planning that may be overlooked during “sick” visits.
“It’s not a sick visit,” clarifies Millennium Physician Group Family Medicine Physician Rick Waks, DO. “It’s not really to discuss your back pain or any other issues. It’s a wellness visit to make sure that you’re up to date with all of your preventive medicine.”
Patients and their providers work together to create a personalized prevention plan. This includes age-appropriate preventive services, cognitive screening, and personalized health advice to identify and manage risk factors. You’ll also discuss how to implement the latest recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
“How do we stay away from things like breast cancer, colon cancer, or prostate cancer?” explains Dr. Murray. “Are we up on our vaccinations so we can reduce our chances of things like shingles and pneumonia? And make sure that we can help guide you a little bit more on those things so you’re not dealing with these problems as you get older.”
Unfortunately, research shows an overwhelming majority of Medicare patients aren’t taking advantage of their Annual Wellness Visit. In fact, only 19% reported having the appointment.
“We want to prevent things before they happen,” says Millennium Physician Group Family Medicine Physician Nicholas Heathscott, MD. “We want to pick up on issues that might be coming on down the line. And we want to make sure that we can address those issues before they become big problems.”
“I enjoy the visit,” admits Dr. Murray. “Because it really gets everyone to take a step back and not just think about all the things you might be dealing with in the short term, but think long term.”
Prevention really is some of the best medicine.