Thinking About Thinking™: Medicare Annual Wellness Visit Supports Brain Health

mikesplaineBy Michael Splaine, Principal, Splaine Consulting

Thought and policy leaders in health are trying to move us from a mindset that health is the cure of disease, or “sick care,” to an embrace of wellness, a mindset that leads to adoption of prevention and proactive strategies as individuals and health systems.  Believing that a wellness approach —think flu shots or smoking cessation counseling — would over time would reduce costs. To that end, in 2011, Congress adopted an Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) as a benefit in Medicare.  

It’s not an annual physical, it’s a health risk assessment and counseling with much of the information gathered by the patient in advance of meeting with the health care professional. The AWV includes a cognitive test to establish a baseline, with the goal of better assessing change over time — or to identify thinking problems that need immediate attention. Practices have a choice among several cognitive assessment tools that are short and that have been validated in primary care settings. 

It is believed that by including brain health in the exam, patients may be more likely to seek early attention for any of their changes in thinking from medical professionals —including being assessed for dementia. Over time, brain-healthful actions like smoking cessation, hypertension control, and increasing physical activity may be adopted by their patients. 

Stay tuned to this site and our social media networks for the next post in this new series.

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