Preventative healthcare is an important part of staying well at any age. As we get older, it’s essential. This is why Medicare developed its Annual Wellness Visits (AWV). An AWV is different from an annual physical, and serves as a yearly personal prevention plan.
AWVs help prevent disease and disability, based on your current health and risk factors, keeping you at your healthiest. As part of these visits, a healthcare provider will perform a risk assessment that includes:
- Medical history and family history review
- List of current healthcare providers and medicines
- Routine measurements like height, weight and blood pressure
- Personalized health advice including a list of risk factors and treatment options
- Checklist of screenings tailored to your individual needs, including things like annual breast exam, immunization schedule and other preventative services
- Advance care planning, which will help you to plan for healthcare should you ever become unable to speak for yourself
- Your provider may also perform a cognitive impairment assessment to look for signs of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias
An AWV is free of charge for patients who have Medicare Part B medical insurance and a healthcare provider that approves the visit. It’s important to note that you may have to pay coinsurance and the Part B deductible may apply if your provider performs additional tests or other services during the visit, as these aren’t covered under the preventative benefits.
It’s understandable that many patients may not feel comfortable seeking preventative care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mount Nittany Physician Group practices are open and a safe place to receive care. Following all federal and state regulatory guidelines to ensure the safety of patients, staff, providers and the community – enhanced safety measures have been put in place throughout the health system. The number of patients and people in any Mount Nittany Health location is limited at all times, patients are screened for symptoms, mask use is required, and all locations are being specially cleaned and sanitized several times a day.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to care for your overall wellbeing and stay on top of general health. For those interested in the AWV, but wish to limit travel outside of the home at this time, telehealth visits are also an option. AWVs via telehealth not only allow for patient engagement during the pandemic, but can help to identify and address any medical needs before they become serious enough to require in-person care. Telehealth AWVs also create opportunities for your provider and healthcare teams to determine if you’d benefit from chronic care management, which is especially important during a potential shelter-in-place order.
It is important to understand that annual wellness visits are not a replacement for an annual physical, or meant to replace an appointment made for a specific ailment, as additional testing may not be covered under the exam. If you would like to see your provider for a new or ongoing issue, it’s best to schedule a regular exam for evaluation.
For more information on the annual Medicare wellness visits, visit medicare.gov. To schedule your annual wellness visit (either as an in-person visit or a virtual visit via telehealth), call 844.278.4600. Patients can also request an appointment online at mymountnittanyhealth.com.
Kelsey Short, DO, is a provider with Mount Nittany Physician Group Family Medicine at its Mount Nittany Health – Mifflin County location. She is a native of central Pennsylvania.
This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times.