Medicare patients receiving Annual Wellness Visits more likely to undergo key preventive health services

Annual Wellness Visits (AWVs) increase a Medicare patient’s likelihood of receiving key preventive health services, including mammograms, according to new research from the American College of Radiology’s Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute.

The study, published in Preventive Medicine, focused on six primary services—mammography, Pap smear test, bone mass measurement, prostate cancer screening, colon cancer screening, influenza vaccine—as well as two secondary services, screening for depression and alcohol screening.

The authors studied Medicare claims for more than 845,000 patients from 2009 to 2014. Twenty-three percent of those patients had an AWV from 2011 to 2013. Patients who received the AWV were more likely to undergo all services examined in the study. For example, 7.6 percent of AWV participants underwent prostate cancer screening versus 4.9 percent non-AWV participants.

“The AWV assesses patients’ health risk factors, reviews medical and family history, and more importantly, develops or updates a personalized prevention plan that includes a screening schedule for appropriate preventive services,” lead author Miao Jiang, PhD, a consultant for IQVIA in Fairfax, Virginia, said in a prepared statement. “Our study provides important evidence that annual wellness visits improve the delivery of preventive services in the elderly population.”

“Promoting preventive care among the Medicare population is essential to enable the elderly to stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease, and live productive lives,” co-author Danny R. Hughes, executive director of the Neiman Institute and a professor of economics at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said in the same statement. “Given recent efforts to trim covered healthcare benefits as a mechanism to control rising costs, it’s clear that the annual wellness visit is an important benefit that provides real value to patients, providers, and payers by effectively facilitating preventive care to this population.”