Getting older has many advantages. You have the wisdom that comes with experience, plenty of stories to share, and are usually more comfortable with who you are. If you have Medicare Part B coverage, another benefit is that you qualify for an Annual Wellness Visit.
This visit aims to keep you healthy and give you the tools to have a good quality of life as you age. The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit allows your healthcare team to review your health status, design a personalized prevention plan, and connect you with critical preventive services covered by Medicare Part B.
Medicare Annual Wellness Visits create a snapshot of your health and provide a reference point for future visits. This improves the chances that a potentially serious health issue is caught early.
It’s important to understand that Medicare Annual Wellness Visits differ from a physical exam conducted by your primary care provider.
Here are three significant differences between these types of appointments:
1. Provider seen
A nurse or nurse practitioner typically conducts a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. During this appointment, you will usually not see your primary doctor or healthcare provider.
A physical exam is conducted by your primary care provider (PCP), who may be a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.
2. What’s included
A Medicare Annual Wellness Visit enhances your health and focuses on your well-being through interviews and assessments of your lifestyle factors. You will also be asked to complete a health risk assessment before your appointment.
During a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit, the nurse will:
• Evaluate your fall risk.
• Measure your height, weight, and blood pressure.
• Offer referrals to other health education or preventive services, such as physical therapy.
• Provide information related to voluntary advance care planning.
• Screen for cognitive impairments like dementia.
• Screen for depression.
• Update your medical and family history.
A physical exam includes an age and gender-appropriate comprehensive head-to-toe checkup. This exam is completed to detect and prevent illnesses or injuries.
During a physical exam, your primary care provider may:
• Check your vital signs.
• Discuss acute or urgent health issues.
• Review chronic health conditions.
• Review your medications.
• Perform a physical exam.
• Ask about your activity level, relationships, and home environment.
Benefits of Physical Therapy and Annual Wellness Visits
Clients benefit: Physical therapists have the experience and education to safely provide a broad health screening to allow tracking of the health status of patients over a period of time.
It could lead to a referral for a physical therapist evaluation and treatment plan for any current or potential problems that were identified during the visit.
Physical therapists benefit: An annual visit allows clinics to diversify their services, bringing in new clients and retaining current clients as physical therapists create ongoing relationships with their client base.
Physical Therapy Health Priorities
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) supports the following health priorities for populations and individuals for the management of disease and disability, health promotion, wellness and prevention.
The population health priorities most related to physical therapy practice in primary and secondary prevention and disease management are:
- Active living
- Injury prevention
- Secondary prevention in chronic disease and disability management
Physical therapists have unique opportunities with the following populations identified by the US National Prevention Strategy (USNPS):
1. The Aging: Aging individuals and populations (risk of falls, more individuals living longer with chronic diseases and conditions, impact of reduced physical fitness on quality of life)
2 Health Disparities: Individuals and populations of all ages with health disparities
3. Chronic Conditions: Individuals and populations of all ages who have disabilities and chronic conditions, and diseases that allow them to maintain their ability to be independent and physically active.
Physical therapists have unique opportunities in injury prevention identified by USNPS:
1. Falls prevention
2. Workplace injury prevention
3. Community‐based injury prevention
Priorities for physical therapists in secondary prevention in chronic disease and disability management include:
1. Diseases and disabilities that impair body function or structure
2. Diseases and disabilities that limit an activity
3. Diseases and disabilities that restrict participation in society
4. Diseases and disabilities that require modification of environmental factors to allow for full participation in society
Physical therapists provide education, behavioral strategies, patient advocacy, referral opportunities, and identification of supportive resources after screening for the following additional USNPS health priorities:
- Tobacco-Free Living
- Preventing Drug Abuse and Excessive Alcohol Use
- Healthy Eating
- Active Living
- Mental and Emotional Well‐Being
- Reproductive and Sexual Health
- Injury and Violence Free Living
Frequency and Cost
A Medicare Annual Wellness Visit can be scheduled after you have Medicare Part B coverage for at least 12 months and each year after that. Subsequent visits must be at least 365 days, or one full year, after your previous year’s visit. Medicare offers the Annual Wellness Visit free for those with Medicare Part B coverage.
A physical exam can be scheduled at any time. The total will vary based on the tests and services completed during the visit. Ask your insurance carrier for coverage details.
Medicare Annual Wellness Visits and physical exams are best scheduled for the same day, with the wellness visit occurring first. Contact your healthcare team and ask if you qualify for a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit.
Physical Therapy for Your Condition
Physical Therapists can help improve or restore the mobility you need to move forward in your life. If you are looking for a possible alternative to surgery, shots, and/or medications, consider Synergy as your solution.