Medicare annual wellness visits associated with revenue boost: 6 things to know

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The adoption of Medicare's annual wellness visit among primary care practices was associated with positive financial gains, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

For the study, researchers analyzed national Medicare claims data for 2011-15 to assess wellness visit adoption and its effects. The study involved a 20 percent sample of Medicare beneficiaries.

Here are six things to know.

1. Medicare's annual wellness visits, introduced in 2011, are available to beneficiaries enrolled in Part B for more than 12 months. According to the Medicare website, the visits aim to help beneficiaries update or develop a preventive care plan so they stay healthy as possible. The first year of enrollment, Part B beneficiaries are eligible for a "Welcome to Medicare" preventive visit.

2. More than half of practices (51.2 percent) identified in the study had not adopted annual wellness visits by 2015. Researchers defined adopters as practices that provided the service to at least a quarter of their eligible patients — 23.1 percent of primary care practices identified in the study met this criteria.

3. Practices that cared for underserved populations, such as racial minorities, those enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, and rural residents, saw lower numbers of annual wellness visits.

4. Researchers said practices that adopted annual wellness visits appeared to use those preventive-focused visits rather than visits based on a specific health issue. These practices saw increased primary care revenue compared to practices that didn't use annual wellness visits.

5. The study also found practices that used annual wellness visits saw "improved stability of patient assignment and a modestly healthier patient mix as indicated by Hierarchical Condition Category risk scores."

6. The study's authors concluded: "Policy makers should consider ways to encourage uptake of the visit or other mechanisms to promote preventive care in underserved populations and the practices that serve them."

 

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