Value of the Annual Wellness Visit

When it comes to wellness, patients are sometimes confused about the “value” of the Annual Wellness Visit.  When we attempt to schedule these patients, we sometimes hear them grumble about the wellness visit being “non-essential” or a “waste of their time”.  The prevailing attitude by patients is that if they can’t see their physician then they don’t want to come in.  Their belief is that the ONLY value” obtained from their medical practice is in a face to face encounter with their physician and all other visits are something they are not interested in.

At WellTrackONE, when we encounter a patient with this attitude, we use reasoning and logic to counter their argument.  We start by explaining that the Annual Wellness Visit screens for a number of medical conditions that if caught EARLY enough can often be suppressed or minimized.  We cite these screenings as a way to preserve the patient’s independence with the notion that seniors are more afraid of becoming dependent on someone than they are of anything else.  We have heard from our patients that this is their number one issue of concern: losing their independence.

So to educate our patients we give them the following list of screenings that we check for:

1. Blindness and macular degeneration
2. Hearing loss
3. Dizziness and vertigo
4. Alzheimer’s early symptoms
5. Abnormal blood pressure
6. Heart problems
7. Colorectal, breast, pelvic, prostate and other cancers
8. Degenerative muscle weakness
9. Loss of energy
10. Fatigue and Insomnia
11. Arthritis and joint pain
12. Osteoporosis
13. Bone density loss
14. Damaged nerve cells (neuropathy)
15. All major muscle, bone and joint connections
16. Medication interactions
17. Flu shots being up to date

Notice that the FIRST thing we tell them that we screen for is “blindness and macular degeneration.”  This is from the Amsler Grid test and has been shown to be very effective in early detection of macular degeneration.  Further, if caught early, ophthalmologists have a number of therapeutic options that may help prevent serious damage to the macula.

It may be surprising to the patient that the Annual Wellness Visit screens for so many chronic conditions.  However, keep in mind that the patient is not normally informed of the true “value” of the Annual Wellness Visit – only that it is available to the patient every year.  It is up to the practice or agent of the practice (us) to educate the patient.

Of course it goes without saying that from a clinical perspective, the Annual Wellness Visit is also a tool that helps predict risk.  This may be a hard concept to explain to a patient, but we often tell our patients that this important visit can help physicians see potential diseases before they become serious.  When used in this context, patients can more readily understand the value of the visit.

Practices who talk with their patients about the value of the Annual Wellness Visit should be sure to emphasize the “early-detection” aspect and the derived benefits.  When the entire staff of the practice, from front desk to nurses to physicians rally behind the importance of the Annual Wellness Visit as a screening and early detection system, it can dramatically change the perception of the patient to a very positive benefit.

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