Primary care practices act as the first line of defense against poor health for Medicare beneficiaries and other patients.  

In the value-based care environment, where shared savings depend on keeping patients healthier for longer, primary care providers can use a powerful tool for delivering proactive, preventive care: the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit (AWV).

AWVs are once-a-year office visits that allow providers to address a patient’s health issues and update information about the patient’s health status, including their clinical, psychosocial, and behavioral health risks.  

They differ from traditional “sick visits” in several ways, explained Greg Zorbas, Implementation Coordinator at Aledade.

“The Medicare AWV is designed as an opportunity for the patient and provider to have a proactive discussion about the patient’s ‘big picture’ issues,” he said.   

“It’s an important opportunity to strengthen the patient-provider relationship, and it allows providers to reinforce that they really care about their patients’ health and keeping them healthy.”

But for practices that often divide the day into fifteen-minute increments in order to keep sufficient revenue flowing, finding the time for a comprehensive review of every Medicare patient may seem like an insurmountable challenge.

Practices should start by making small, sustainable changes that take advantage of processes that are already in place, advised Zorbas.

“You don’t have to bring every single one of your patients in for an AWV within the next month – that’s not realistic,” he said.  “But you will be having patients come in every day for some reason, whether it’s a sick visit, a diabetes check, or a follow-up on a lab result.”

“Why not take advantage of that and start to integrate a few high-value screenings into those appointments, such as a depression screening or a falls risk assessment?  That will start to build the evidence that it’s important to start taking a more proactive approach to wellness.”

To learn more about how to incorporate AWVs into the daily schedule, download Aledade’s free white paper, Making Time for Medicare Annual Wellness Visits in an Independent Primary Care Practice.”