to provide Medicare Wellness Visits
In January of this year Medicare began providing an annual Wellness Visit benefit. This benefit is in addition to the ‘Welcome to Medicare’ exam benefit that occurs only in the first year of joining Medicare. The goal of the wellness visits is to develop or update an individual prevention plan for each Medicare patient.
The nine satellite clinics administered by Clearwater Valley and St. Mary’s Hospitals have designed internal systems and trained their staff in the Medicare guidelines for these wellness visits.
“Sometimes navigating the healthcare system can be confusing,” said Kristy Fresh, SMH/CVH Physician Clinics Director. “We’ve designed an information sheet about this new benefit that we’ll mail to each patient who sets up an appointment. We’re hoping it will clarify what a patient can expect during their 30 minute appointment with their health care provider or one of the other providers on our medical home teams.”
According to Fresh, the Medicare wellness visit benefit is not the same as a yearly physical exam or acute/chronic care exam. The wellness visit will assess a variety of issues including the patient’s medical and social history, their current medications and supplements, risk factors, potential mood disorders, functional ability, home safety and falls risk. At the discretion of the patient, the health care provider will also discuss the patient’s advance directives including their living will and durable power of attorney. The patient’s blood pressure, height, weight, BMI and visual acuity will also be recorded. The provider will offer education and counseling relating to the topics covered during the visit and develop a wellness plan to share with the patient.
“If a patient requires a visit for a particular medical condition or concern, then another appointment will be scheduled, if the patient agrees. Medicare will be billed separately for that visit,” said Fresh. “We anticipate some questions from our senior patients, but the information sheet we have available will, hopefully, help answer those questions.”
In addition to being mailed to the patient’s home after an appointment has been scheduled, the information sheets can also be picked up at any of the nine clinics during regular business hours. They are also being distributed at area senior citizen centers and meal sites.
“The Medicare wellness exam benefit is annual and can be scheduled every 12 months so the patient’s wellness plan can be continually updated,” said Fresh. “It’s a great boon to anyone who believes in practicing preventive care. Truly, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Appointments can be scheduled be calling any of the nine SMH/CVH medical clinics.