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What’s an Annual Wellness Visit?

Health and Wellness

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 physician or nurse practitioner 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.

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 30-50 minutes.

“The Annual Wellness Visit is an important tool,” explains Anela Tamashiro, FNP, a nurse practitioner at Adventist Health Castle. “During this visit, we take time to focus on each individual’s risk factors, health goals and prevention needs.” It’s your time to discuss any specific goals and actions you want to take for your health and well-being, from depression and weight loss or even to discuss solutions about advanced directives or your wishes for care 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.

How to prepare for your annual wellness visit

Before your appointment, your provider’s office may send you forms. You may complete a health risk assessment or a hearing assessment. To maximize your visit time, fill out any forms you’ve received in advance of your visit. On the day of your appointment, 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

Also, spend 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 the purpose of the Annual Wellness Visit, and that it is different from other routine visits,” explains Tamashiro. “At those visits, you may have several topics you need to talk about, but at the annual wellness visit, the goal is to focus on prevention. It’s a topic that can be easily missed in the routine visits for various sickness, and yet it is the visit that provides us a crucial opportunity 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.

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