Also, value-based reimbursement programs include calls for documenting quality improvement and the conduct of practice improvement projects. The wellness visit is a vehicle for meeting those stipulations, Bluestein says.
3. It’s an investment in support success.
Bluestein says internal polling at his office found that most patients had never heard of a AWV, but wanted one when they did. Historically, the uptake on patients taking advantage of AWVs is quite low. A 2014 CMS report shows that a mere 14.5% of eligible Part B fee-for-service beneficiaries took advantage of the service.
“Patients have to have buy-in,” says Bluestein, “and they need to understand this visit isn’t a physical and this isn’t the time to come in about a sore knee.”
Remind patients they can have an initial AWV in their first year of Part B eligibility, and then an ongoing, subsequent AWV starting in their second year of eligibility, Bluestein suggests. The visit itself is 100% covered by Medicare, though there may be other charges for immunizations, lab draws, etc.
“It’s also a way to further engage patients and encourage their loyalty,” he says. “Patients generally like these visits. The strongest predictor of getting further wellness visits was having an initial one in the first place.”
4. It provides quality time with patients.
This is the clinician’s chance to spend quality time, usually 40 minutes to 60 minutes, with a patient. The conversation may yield an open exchange of information, and the patient may disclose other problems that require follow-up care—for which the practice really can bill. Remember, too, that the initial visit and follow-ups can be accomplished by the physician, or by a physician assistant, nurse practitioner or other medical professional or team directly supervised by the physician.
“Remember that your interventions with the annual wellness visit may reduce the likelihood or reduce the duration of more serious problems later for a patient,” Bluestein says.