Medicare patients over 65 years old can benefit from a free annual wellness visit. But what are these and what do they entail?
In today’s article we are discussing everything you need to know about these visits, and how to prepare for them.
What is the Annual Wellness Visit?
If a typical physical appointment worries you, you are in luck. Annual Wellness Visits are not a physical checkup. Instead, they are a simple conversation between patient and doctor where you can discuss any worries you have, discuss your previous health history and review your current medications.
The AWV will also give your doctor the chance to review any underlying health issues you have got which might develop into larger problems in the future and investigate with you how to prevent this.
Things to bring up at your AWV
There are several things to prep for your Annual Wellness Visit. So, if you are concerned about remembering what to bring up, here are a few things to talk about or write down before your visit:
To start, make a list of any of the medications you are currently on. This includes prescribed medications as well as any supplements you are taking, over the counter pain killers and vitamins. Although supplements may seem harmless, depending on the types of other medication you are on, they can combine to create different side effects.
Next, make note of any healthcare professionals you are in regular contact with. Whether that is doctors, specialists, pharmacists and other health agencies. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act means that physicians cannot share information between one another, which is why the AWV is important so that your doctor can track any records they need access to, and evaluate your future health plans.
If you have them to hand, it is also worth having your immunization records with you. You might be eligible for a free vaccination or shot, and your record will help the doctor understand what you have had, and have not had.
What happens during the Wellness Visit?
Your annual wellness visit will be done by either a doctor, nurse or nurse practitioner. During the visit, you will discuss your health history, medications and any appointments you have got scheduled. There will also be a risk assessment done as well as an update to your personal health record.
Your health history review is all about your past medical issues, as well as family records. While your doctor will usually have all this information, it is worth bringing up any underlying health issues your family has suffered from to check if these are genetic, or whether they can be prevented.
The medical review will help the doctor look deeper into which medications might be having negative interactions with each other. This is the perfect time to discuss whether you think your current medications are working, and if there are any supplements or vitamins you might want to take. It is always worth discussing with your doctor before taking on any other store bought and over the counter medications.
If you are in perfect health, or are seeking care from other agencies, you might only visit your physician once a year. During your annual wellness visit, your doctor will update the list on record of any teams and specialists you are currently seeing for future reference.
The health risk assessment will be a quick check of your weight, height and blood pressure. You will also be asked standard questions like whether you drink and smoke, your diet, whether you are exercising etc. They will also touch on your memory and mental health. These are just to keep everything up to date, so that the doctor can assess whether you are at risk of future illnesses, or whether you are capable of taking care of yourself.
If memory is an issue, you have taken up smoking or have begun drinking more, your physician might book in a few screenings to check everything is okay.
Lastly, your doctor will work with you to create a wellness schedule. This schedule will span 5-10 years so that you can see what the future of your healthcare looks like. This will include prostate exams, mammograms or any other screenings. A lot of these appointments will be free as well. Your wellness schedule will be created using an online platform that you will also have access to.
Your personal health records
With all the information you and your doctor discuss during the session, they will then create a Personal Health Record. This record will include everything from your medications, a contact list of your current health team and any previous family history of genetic illness and conditions.
This record is primarily for the doctor’s use, but you can request a copy for yourself. It is quite helpful to have this record yourself, as you can then take it to any appointments you have so that everyone is in the loop. That means if you visit a small clinic or a specialist, they will know everything they need to before starting any treatments.
Although it is difficult to discuss, there also may come a time when your adult children have to represent you during a hospital appointment or in the emergency unit. Having a personal health record within your own paperwork means your adult children can access it when needed to help healthcare professionals decide the best course of action when needed.
Why it is good to keep record
During your annual wellness visit, you will be able to get an up to date look on your current health and what the future might look like. With all this information, you will be able to be your own health advocate. The more you know about your health and underlying issues, the more you can research into how to keep yourself healthy on a day-to-day basis.
Although your annual wellness visit might seem intimidating, it can actually be a really positive experience. It is a great way to keep everything in check with your primary physician, and to discuss anything you are currently feeling worried about. With all the information, you can also work to live a healthier life and feel better about yourself each day.