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Annual Wellness Visits

What is an Annual Wellness Visit (AWV)?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services established the Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) to keep Medicare beneficiaries healthy and promote preventive care. AWVs are provided with no patient cost sharing.

An AWV is available after a Medicare beneficiary has had Part B for longer than 12 months. The first AWV is available to beneficiaries who have not received an Initial Preventive Physical Examination (IPPE) or AWV in the previous 12 months. Subsequent AWVs are covered once every 12 months. At a minimum, AWVs include:

First AWV Subsequent AWV
Medical/family history Update of medical/family history
List of current providers/suppliers Update of list of current providers/suppliers
Blood pressure, height, weight, and other routine measurements Measurement of weight, blood pressure, and other routine measurements
Detection of any cognitive impairment Detection of any cognitive impairment
Review potential (risk factors) for depression, functional ability, and level of safety While not required, depression screening is a Medicare-covered service with no cost sharing requirement.
Establishment of:
  • Written screening schedule (such as a checklist) for next 5-10 years.
  • List of risk factors and conditions where interventions recommended.
Update to:
  • Written screening schedule
  • List of risk factors and conditions where interventions recommended.
Personalized health advice and referrals for health education and preventive counseling Personalized health advice and referrals for health education and preventive counseling

Advance Care Planning can be provided with an AWV, at the patient’s discretion. This involves a face-to-face conversation between a physician (or other qualified healthcare professional) and the patient to discuss the patient’s wishes and preferences for medical treatment if he or she were unable to speak or make medical decisions in the future.

An AWV can be provided by a physician (MD or DO), qualified non-physician practitioner (nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or certified clinical nurse specialist), medical professional (health educator, registered dietitian, nutrition professional, or other licensed practitioner), or team of medical professionals who are directly supervised by a physician.

Why provide AWVs to your patients?

AWVs are beneficial for patients and providers, even without a physical exam. Patients receive a comprehensive health assessment and personalized prevention plan. Providers are able to better serve patients and keep them healthy. During the AWV, the provider is able to assess the patient and ensure the patient is receiving the right medication, screen for potential problems such as depression, and provide the patient with a prevention plan. In addition, the components of the AWV meet quality metrics that fulfill Quality Payment Program requirements. For organizations participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program or other alternative payment models, AWVs can be a tool for patient attribution. Lastly, the AWV is a new revenue stream for providers.

How does the Initial Preventive Physical Examination (IPPE) differ from an AWV?

While the AWV is available after a Medicare beneficiary has been enrolled in Part B for longer than 12 months, the Initial Preventive Physical Examination (IPPE) is a one-time visit covered within first 12 months of Medicare Part B enrollment. The IPPE includes:

  • Review of medical and social history
  • Review of potential (risk factors) for depression
  • Review of functional ability and level of safety
  • Measurement of height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure, visual acuity screen, and other factors deemed appropriate
  • Discussion of end-of-life planning, upon agreement of the individual
  • Education, counseling and referrals based on results of review and evaluation services performed during the visit, including a brief written plan such as a checklist, and if appropriate, education, counseling and referral for obtaining an electrocardiogram (a/k/a EKG, ECG)

The IPPE must be provided by a physician (MD or DO) or qualified non-physician practitioner (nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or certified clinical nurse specialist).

There are four HCPCS codes associated with the IPPE:

  • G0402: Initial preventive physical examination; face-to-face visit, services limited to new beneficiary during the first 12 months of Medicare enrollment
  • G0403: Electrocardiogram, routine ECG with 12 leads; performed as a screening for the initial preventive physical examination with interpretation and report
  • G0404: Electrocardiogram, routine ECG with 12 leads; tracing only, without interpretation and report, performed as a screening for the initial preventive physical examination
  • G0405: Electrocardiogram, routine ECG with 12 leads; interpretation and report only, performed as a screening for the initial preventive physical examination

How do I identify patients who would benefit from AWVs?

There are many different strategies that a practice may choose to use when identifying patients that are eligible for IPPE or AWV. Some practices may inform patients that they are eligible for an AWV during a regular office visit. Practices wanting to achieve higher rates of AWV among eligible patients use EHR data to identify patients that qualify for IPPE or AWV.

How can I educate patients about AWVs and what to expect?

Educating patients prior to the visit is important for achieving patient satisfaction. Patients should be aware that the AWV is focused on prevention and is not an annual physical exam. While the AWV is covered without cost sharing by Medicare, the patient should understand that if they discuss a medical problem during the AWV they will be billed for the Evaluation and Management (E/M) visit and any applicable cost sharing will apply. Some practices have reported that patients sometimes present with a condition or situation at the time of their AWV. Those practices have mitigated this issue by addressing the patient’s immediate issue at that time to provide the visit with no cost sharing.

Practices can use many modes to reach patients about the benefits of the AWV. Outreach can be provided in person (e.g., community presentations, during office visit), by mailed letter, by secure electronic messaging in a patient portal, through phone calls, or various other methods. For example, a practice may send a “happy birthday” postcard to patients reminding them to schedule their AWV.

What are the billing codes for AWVs?

There are two HCPCS codes for AWVs and two codes for advance care planning:

  • G0438: Annual wellness visit; includes a personalized prevention plan of service (PPS), initial visit
  • G0439: Annual wellness visit, includes a personalized prevention plan of service (PPS), subsequent visit
  • 99497: Advance care planning including the explanation and discussion of advance directives such as standard forms (with completion of such forms, when performed), by the physician or other qualified health professional; first 30 minutes, face-to-face with the patient, family member(s) and/or surrogate
  • 99498: Advance care planning including the explanation and discussion of advance directives such as standard forms (with completion of such forms, when performed), by the physician or other qualified healthcare professional; each additional 30 minutes (List separately in addition to code for primary procedure)

Medicare will pay for a significant, separately identifiable, medically necessary E/M service along with the IPPE/AWV for Fee for Service providers.

How do I document AWVs in my electronic health record (EHR)?

Many organizations have developed templates into their EHRs to capture all of the elements of the IPPE and AWV. These templates include inputs for each component of this visit, including the health risk assessment, list of current providers, medical and family history, depression screening, fall risk assessment, and personalized prevention plan. The health risk assessment includes a patient questionnaire that may be provided to the patient electronically or on paper and later transferred to the EHR.

Who in my organization should I engage when designing and implementing AWVs?

Implementing IPPEs and AWVs requires broad support, beginning with the medical staff and leadership. If completing IPPEs/AWVs is a priority for the practice, it will be successful. Members of the care team, from patient registration to nursing staff to the provider, should understand their role in the process and the workflow for completing the visit efficiently. Working with coding and billing staff early on is important for developing complete documentation and systems to bill for the service. Health information technology staff can build and refine IPPE/AWV templates and assist with queries to identify eligible patients.

How should I schedule staff to provide AWVs?

Each practice must determine the most efficient way to schedule IPPEs/AWVs. Due to the length of the IPPE/AWV, some practices designate specific time slots during the week or specific days for these types of visits. Some practices have chosen to have one eligible medical professional complete all visits, such as a care coordinator, rather than the patients’ primary care providers. Practices that have hired care coordinators may utilize these licensed professionals to complete most or all of the AWV. Determining the most efficient schedule for staff may require some trial and error before the best approach is found.

Are there any special considerations for Rural Health Clinic (RHC) and Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) billing for AWVs?

RHCs and FQHCs billing for AWVs and IPPEs are reimbursed at their respective all-inclusive rate (AIR) and prospective payment system (PPS) rate. Cost sharing for patients is waived. If a significant, separately identifiable, medically necessary E/M service is provided along with the AWV/IPPE, RHCs and FQHCs are not eligible for additional payment. IPPEs/AWVs can only be provided in an RHC or FQHC setting by a provider that meets the RHC/FQHC definition of a visit: physician (MD or DO), nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or certified nurse midwife.

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