The annual wellness visit (AWV) is one of the most important components of care. It’s an opportunity for providers to create a strategy for each patient’s unique care needs, and prevent health problems and disability. Not only is the AWV a way to maximize wellness efforts, but it also aims to grow health-related engagement and independence in older adults. By using the AWV as a way for health promotion and disease prevention, both patients and health systems could see major reductions in annual healthcare costs1. Not to mention, the AWV is free for Medicare patients. So why is getting patients to complete an AWV like pulling teeth?
As mentioned in Carrie Kozlowski’s June blog post, especially in the time of COVID, neither health systems nor patients can continue to delay care, especially preventative care. Even with healthcare’s ever-expanding conveniences, like direct-to-consumer telehealth, patients likely lack awareness to such alternative options or may feel uncomfortable using them. Couple this with COVID-laced apprehension of in-person appointments and pre-existing healthcare barriers (like low health literacy, lack of access, and low patient engagement), and the number of any completed wellness visits plummets.
How do we improve access to quality care, reassure safety, better the patient experience, and motivate patients to complete their annual wellness visits? We employ the use of health communication to inform and influence individual’s physical, mental, and social well-being.
Here are 4 ways to spark patient activation so they complete their AWV:
- Humanize healthcare
- Upfront VP of Services, Barbara Bartosch, got it right when she said, “…why in this day and age of healthcare delivery does it feel like we are back to toe tagging…”? Healthcare is extremely personal, so patient outreach should be personal, too. Tailoring messages to the patient’s relevant needs makes them feel seen as an individual person, not just another EMR number. Personalization can build trust and reinforce brand loyalty to the provider and the health system. Framing messages with empathy and positive design creates communication that will motivate patients to engage positively with their healthcare.
- Use educational, not just informative, content
- Take advantage of the opportunity to educate patients at scale. Messages explaining the why of an annual wellness visit are going to set patients up for success. Educated patients are engaged patients, and engaged patients are activated, and more likely to complete wellness visits.
- Avoid doctor-speak and medical jargon
- In a world where buzzwords and brevity are kings of content, using healthcare buzzwords can confuse patients and turn them away from seeking care. Avoid doctor-speak, medical phrases/jargon, and commonplace abbreviations (like PCP for primary care provider) so patients have the clearest understanding of what they’re participating in. Overuse of such language overwhelms patients and sends them down rabbit holes looking for the information they actually need. Simplified, globally understood verbiage enhances not only patient satisfaction, but patient safety, too.
- Proactively address barriers
- Geographic location, insurance coverage, cultural competence, etc. all exist as barriers to health services and often lead to unmet care needs or delays in receiving appropriate care. Creating content that addresses these barriers ensures patient confidence and trust within the health system. Help patients find transportation to the appointment, connect them with the billing and insurance office to verify their appointment’s coverage and cost, create messaging in Spanish, and use ally-friendly language. This practical messaging takes little time to create but can greatly impact patients, reducing uncertainty and minimizing dilemma which would deter them from completing their visit.
The AWV is a proactive and preventative service that supports health literacy and empowers older adults. While it’s local in concept, it can have global results, greatly reducing healthcare costs across the board1. By applying health communication to AWV-related messaging, health systems will be one step closer to improving the experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing per capita costs of health care2.
Connect with Upfront to learn more.
- Simpson, V., & Kovich, M. (2019). Outcomes of primary care-based Medicare annual wellness visits with older adults: A scoping review. Geriatric Nursing, 40(6), 590–596. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197457219302071?via%3Dihub
- Berwick, D., Nolan, T., & Wittington, J. (2008). The Triple Aim: Care, Health, And Cost. Health Affairs, 759–769. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.27.3.759