Annual Wellness Visit helps Medicare patients stay ahead of health goals

Published on December 30, 2020

Medicare patient reviews medications with LMH Health physician using telemedicine

Annual Wellness Visit helps Medicare patients stay ahead of their health goals

Another added appointment to a list of medical needs sounds exhausting. What if this visit wasn’t like the others? What if this was a chance to chat about all and any healthcare needs that you might normally not have an opportunity to discuss?

This visit is known as an annual wellness visit which is available each year to those who have Medicare. Malwina Zastawna, Population Health manager, said annual wellness visits are extremely important and a great aid to your overall health.

“The visit provides the potential to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to your wellbeing,” she said. “No one thinks ‘oh I feel great today, I am going to call my doctor.’ My team takes a proactive approach of reaching out to patients and sharing the benefits that are available to them. Patients who have had an initial annual wellness visit are often excited to come back next year.”

Due to COVID-19, annual wellness visits have been approved to be done via telehealth. Despite the pandemic, Zastawna said that they still average about 400 visits per month.

“It is important to note that when you come in for an annual wellness visit you will be seen by a population health nurse who works very closely with your doctor,” she said. “We are able to sit down and chat about your overall health. This is a time where we can discuss your risk factors and offer personal health advice so you can stay healthy or delay progression of disease. The information gathered during the visit is valuable to doctors during future care. We work as a team with your provider and their nurses.”

Zastawna said the visit focuses more on preventative health. The earlier something is caught, the better chance to find a solution. Healthcare can start with wellness and prevention. Annual Wellness Visits are truly about health care and not sick care.

Matthew Bihlmaier, DO

Matthew Bihlmaier, DO

Dr. Matthew Bihlmaier, an Internal Medicine physician at Reed Internal Medicine, said these visits allow for a time and a space to talk about the things that can get overlooked in another type of medical visit. He said rather than focusing on one issue at a specific visit, the provider and patients can focus on goals of any type.

“These visits can be used as a supplemental visits or sometimes, this may be the only time each year that we get to see the patient,” Dr. Bihlmaier said. “I enjoy getting to sit down with these patients and discuss what last year’s goals were and what this year’s goals are and see what they want for their health. I like working with them as a team and reminding them that many little goals turn into big goals. If we can make small changes over time, they lead up to big changes over the long haul.”

Medicare patients

A guide to understanding your Medicare Annual Wellness Visit

Your Annual Wellness Visit provides an opportunity for you and your healthcare team to discuss your health history, any concerns you may have regarding your current health status and to review your medications and immunizations. Learn more

He said that sometimes, these visits are important more than just for a patient’s physical health, but mental health as well.

“I have had patients who come to these visits and just enjoy having someone to talk with,” Dr. Bihlmaier said. “When stressful situations are happening around you, whether or not they regard your health, it can be very mentally taxing. These visits can be used to express fears and worries as well because as much as we focus on physical health, mental health is equally as important, no matter your age.”

He said along with giving the patients an overview of their basic state of health by providing them their height, weight and blood pressure, they can look at chronic problems that have been going on and offer different solutions or take different routes to care.

“When we see these patients each year it gives the nurses and physicians peace of mind,” Dr. Bihlmaier said. “If we don’t see our patients for a while we can worry. Getting the opportunity to see them each year and check in helps us know they are ok.”

He said that Reed Internal Medicine and the hospital as a whole are taking safety measures to protect patients and visitors from COVID-19. However, if you do not feel safe coming in, telehealth is an option.

“We are able to provide you a telehealth appointment on a few different platforms and these have actually proven to be very helpful and convenient for some patients,” Dr. Bihlmaier said. “Not only are we able to reach out to residents in nursing homes easier now with telehealth, but if a patient has a family member who lives in another part of the country they can connect and attend the appointments with them through telehealth.”

Lastly, he said it is important for him to be a motivation for his patients. Dr. Bihlmaier has seen patients concerned about their weight gain due to COVID-19 stress eating or changes in habit. His response is that you are ok.

“I understand, and please, use me as an unbiased source to tell you that you are doing just fine,” he said. “We experience a pandemic like this once every hundred years. If you gained some weight, that’s ok. You are not alone and we are rooting for you. As an annual wellness visit can aid in your overall health in the long run, focus on your health right here and now as well and continue being vigilant in your COVID safety precautions. Continue to wash your hands, wear a mask and be kind.”