Why Healthcare Brands Should Push for Annual Wellness Visits

Open enrollment tends to consume healthcare marketing teams this time of year, but there is another piece of low-hanging fruit — the Annual Wellness Visit. By increasing the completion rate of AWVs by Dec. 31, you provide a meaningful service for patients, generate revenue for physicians and potentially boost your organization’s risk-adjusted reimbursements.

Open enrollment tends to consume healthcare marketing teams this time of year, but there is another piece of low-hanging fruit — the Annual Wellness Visit (AWV). By increasing the completion rate of AWVs by Dec. 31, you provide a meaningful service for patients, generate revenue for physicians, and potentially boost your organization’s risk-adjusted reimbursements.

Anyone enrolled in Medicare for longer than 12 months qualifies for a once-a-year AWV. This is a preventive health benefit offered at no cost to the patient. The AWV is a longer format office visit between a patient and provider to complete a Health Risk Assessment (HRA), discuss health concerns and document conditions that ultimately factor into the patient’s risk score. Because the visit is not associated with a specific health complaint and request for treatment, it can be harder for a patient or provider to see its real value. That may be one reason why only 14%-19% of senior populations typically have AWVs, but it offers four notable benefits:

1. The AWV Helps the Patient and Doctor Forge a Better Relationship

These appointments take 45 minutes to an hour, longer than a typical visit. The visit is a discussion that touches on family medical history, assessment for depression or cognitive impairments, a review of specialists seen by the patient, and other items. The appointment duration and nature of the discussion fosters a relationship that reduces doctor hopping and can improve word-of-mouth referrals.

2. Patients Who Have AWVs Tend to Have Better Health Outcomes

The whole purpose of the AWV is to translate information from the HRA into a Personalized Prevention Plan, all made possible by the extended conversation time. Because the approach is a form of shared decision-making, patients are more likely to feel an obligation to try and live up to it. And, as providers document specific clinical actions needed over the coming year, completions of those quality metrics also rise.

3. Some Medicare Plans Pay a Bonus

AWV is a focus of Medicare Advantage plans, and some provide bonuses to organizations that raise AWV completions

If your organization has an easily definable base of seniors, ask your contracting department if any of your health plan partners are offering AWV incentives. In some cases, you may be able to draw on health plan funds to offset your costs in promoting the service to your qualified patients. Mailers to patients, newspaper ads, messages via your patient portal, outbound calls and targeted digital ads are all ways to drive AWV appointments that occur by the end of the year. The end-of-year ‘expiration’ can be a motivating factor for patients who seek to maximize their health benefits while others find value in starting the new year off ‘right.’

4. More Time to Code Health Risks

The AWV gives the provider more time to code appropriate health risks and conditions into your EHR system, which can increase risk-adjusted reimbursements over the coming year.

Marketers focus on new patient acquisition, which is expensive, but may overlook substantive patient engagement tactics that impact reimbursement levels. Any communications directed to providers should indicate the Evaluation and Management (E/M) service code and a link for resources on how to bill if treatment or diagnostic modifiers need to be applied.

Although open enrollment is a natural focus for this time of year, a last-minute push for AWVs or a year-round strategy for communicating this benefit to older patients can yield financial and quality results for your organization.