Keeping It All Together: An Unexpected Benefit of Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit

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Order is the sanity of the mind, the health of the body, the peace of the city, the security of the state. Like beams in a house or bones to a body, so is order to all things. Southey, Robert

For several decades we have seen studies, articles and government discussions on the importance of patients having a personal health record (PHR). Despite this, few people have even a basic basic form of a personal health record.  In fact, it isn’t unusual for patients to come into the ER not knowing the names of their medications or their most recent surgeries.

From multiple studies, we know that when patients organize and maintain a personal health record (PHR) for themselves, they have a better understanding of their health and are more likely to seek appropriate treatment before it is too late to reverse adverse effects. We know that organized patients are much more likely to be proactive in maintaining their health than those who don’t.

So, why doesn’t every person (especially every senior in America) have a PHR? It certainly isn’t for a lack of trying. In fact, both the government and private sectors have worked feverishly for years to promote personal responsibility through PHRs. You may remember one of the most famous Google Health.  Perhaps it’s time to investigate why people don’t use a Personal Health Record.

Hypothesis: After many years of working in the education community with both children and adults, I believe the problem is people usually do what they have been conditioned to do. In the US, people have been trained for over a century not to question their doctor and not to treat themselves; but rather to rely on their doctor for all their healthcare needs.  We see this in the consequences of this daily in our hospital emergency rooms when patients come in for colds and insignificant issues better dealt with at home. I’m not saying depending on your doctor is a bad thing but when patients are unable to make even the most simple decisions on their own, it certainly creates a stumbling block when trying to promote patients take ownership and responsibility for their own health.

Solution: Most doctors would tell you it is dangerous for patients to take complete control of their own health.  We need experts to identify and treat illnesses as they occur.  Most doctors consider “internet diagnosis” as a threat to much of our populations health and well being. Doctors go through many years of education that can’t be matched by a quick Google search.

Fortunately, Medicare is gradually working toward a happy medium. If we actually want to see patients taking more responsibility, the doctors need to prescribe that responsibility. In other words, physicians need to provide information to their patients that allows them to take responsibility for their own health.

I know this sounds like more work for an already overworked physician…but, Medicare has created the Annual Wellness Visit for just this purpose. And the best part is that it the reimbursement is roughly 3 times the normal reimbursement rate for a doctor visit.

As you may know, in January 2011, as part of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare began reimbursing physicians for educating patients about their health, doing a Health Risk Assessment, and setting up a wellness plan. The interesting thing about Medicare’s requirements of the AWV already set up a comprehensive Personal Health Record for patients.  One or two extra steps and you can send your patients with a PHR and it is a natural outcome of this visit. .

As an extra incentive, we already hear physicians stating they have begun to hear complaints from their patients who feel they aren’t getting anything for their attending the AWV. By providing a comprehensive PHR during the Annual Wellness Visit, not only do patients leave happier with the visit but you also have promoted the benefits we all know patients who have an updated valid PHR enjoy!

So, in conclusion, we encourage you to take the extra step of helping your patients create a Personal Health Record during their Annual Wellness Visit.  Because you control the information that goes into it, you can feel good about their record knowing it is up to date and accurate.  Most important, however, by taking this step, you know you are helping your patients stay a little healthier than they might otherwise be!


  1. OZ Preventive Medicine

    December 19, 2012

    There are huge benefits to doctors educating their patients, reducing the amount of patients that they don’t really need to come in while still being reimbursed for this work!

  2. ARCpoint Labs of Lansing

    December 26, 2012

    Great quote! Being organized in all possible ways will benefit you always.

  3. TITLE Boxing Club of Overland Park

    December 26, 2012

    Getting on top of your health and keeping a PHR would greatly benefit all of us. Doctors may know more about health than the average person, but they don’t know everything and we need to take an active role in our personal health.

  4. ARCpoint Labs of Altamonte Springs

    December 27, 2012

    We should absolutely take an active role in our own personal health. We know how we feel and what we are doing to better it, the medications we are taking, etc. A well informed person is probably going to be a healthier person in the long run.

  5. TITLE Boxing Club of Lawrence

    January 2, 2013

    It just goes to show how little we are educated about our health that people don’t even know the names of the medications they are taking. Do they even know what they are taking them for? And what the potential harmful side effects are? A PHR should be an important part of everybody’s health, and we should all be encouraged more by our doctors to take an active role in learning about our health.

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