Annual Wellness Exam: Top Priority for Providers in 2018

The annual wellness exam is nationally recognized as standard for high quality patient care. For this reason, many payers and organizations are incentivizing providers to do more wellness exams in 2018. Through the Annual Wellness Exam, providers can close seven reportable quality measures during these visits, if appropriately documented.

BMI, flu and pneumococcal immunizations, falls screening, depression, diabetes eye exam, smoking/tobacco cessation counseling, and medication adherence are all measures covered during an annual wellness exam.  In addition, providers can review and order needed preventative screenings, such as mammogram and colonoscopy.

For patients, these yearly appointments help keep patients on track with health goals and reduce their out of pocket costs by preventing illness. Given that more than 34% of Kentucky’s population considered obese, the wellness exam gives providers the opportunity to remind patients about positive health benefits resulting from a modest 5-10% decrease in body weight, including:

Diabetes – Weight loss can help patients with Type 2 diabetes become less insulin resistant, obtain better glucose control, and reduce the risk of developing other health complications such as cardiovascular disease. For patients with pre-diabetes, lifestyle interventions including modest weight loss can decrease the overall risk of diabetes by 58%.

Blood Pressure – Losing weight can help to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. A 5-10% weight reduction can result in a 5 mmHg decrease on average, and greater reductions may be achieved by consuming a lower-fat diet that is enriched with fruits and vegetables such as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).

Cholesterol – Being overweight is linked to high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Losing 5-10% of body weight with diet and exercise can help to significantly decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and it also has been shown to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels by up to 5 points and decrease triglycerides by an average of 40 mg/dL.

Medication Costs – In addition to all of the positive health benefits that result from a modest weight reduction, some patients may be able to reduce the dosage of their chronic medications or no longer require some medications at all, which means more savings on annual prescription drug costs.

Strategize with other providers, your medical assistants and office staff on how you can schedule more Annual Wellness Exams this year and tools to make sure key measures are addressed on every patient visit.