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What’s an Annual Wellness Visit?

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You’ve probably heard of an annual physical exam—but do you know what an Annual Wellness Visit is? For many Medicare patients, these visits are crucial tools for maintaining and improving health.

Understanding annual wellness visits

An Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) is a free benefit for people with Medicare. Although the two terms sometimes get confused, it is different than an annual check-up.

During an AWV, you speak with your healthcare provider about your current health, your health goals and what steps you can take to achieve those goals. You also work on a written five- to 10-year personalized prevention plan. This plan contains detailed information about your immunization and screening schedules, as well as lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health.

“The Annual Wellness Visit is an important tool,” explains James Myers, PA, Adventist Health Lodi Memorial. “These visits allot us specific time to focus on each individual’s risk factors, health goals and prevention needs.” You may discuss interventions to quit smoking, risk factors for depression or even talk about advanced directives or your wishes in case you are hospitalized. Any topic relevant to improving your overall health and quality of life may be part of your Annual Wellness Visit.

Preparing for your annual wellness visit

Before your AWV, your provider’s office may send you forms. You may complete a health risk assessment or a hearing assessment. To ensure a smooth visit, fill out any forms you’ve received before the day of your appointment. On the day of your AWV, you should also bring:

  • A full medication list, including any supplements you are taking
  • Information about any durable medical equipment, if relevant
  • A list of all the specialists on your healthcare team, such as a cardiologist or gynecologist

You should also spend some time considering your personal health and wellness goals for the visit. Write down any questions you want to review with your provider, such as:

  • What do the numbers on my blood pressure reading mean?
  • Where can I find a support group to quit smoking?
  • How can I connect with a therapist?
  • What diet changes can I make to improve my cholesterol?

Not just another office visit

“It’s important to understand that the Annual Wellness Visit is different from other office visits,” explains Myers. “At other office visits, you may have several topics you need to talk about. At the annual wellness visit, we really focus on prevention. Prevention is one of those parts of your health that can easily get missed—the visit is a crucial opportunity for us to help you improve your wellness long-term.”

Your Annual Wellness Visit may be an in-person office visit, or you may complete the visit virtually. If a virtual visit works better for you, you may have a video call or a regular phone call with your provider. Typically, the whole visit lasts around 15 to 30 minutes.

The importance of prevention

“The process of taking care of people is complex,” Myers shares. “But when we move from a model where we care for health problems as they develop to a model where we can prevent diseases from ever occurring in the first place, people live happier and healthier lives.”

To schedule your Medicare Annual Wellness Visit or a yearly check-up, find a healthcare provider near you.