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Why medical practices that offer free wellness visits see increased revenue

Even though many practices do not provide the option, those that do saw greater primary care revenue and brought in patients that were healthier.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

As unlikely as it might sound at first blush, practices that are not offering free wellness visits are missing out on an opportunity to increase revenue.

Medicare's annual wellness visit was introduced under the Affordable Care Act to promote evidence-based preventive care, including screening for depression and risk of falls. 

To better understand the ability and motivations of practices to adopt these wellness visits, investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital examined national Medicare billing data collected from 2008 to 2015 for a randomly selected sample of Medicare beneficiaries. 

The researchers examined visit rates, practice revenue and the population of patients served by each practice. They found that 51.2 percent of practices provided no annual wellness visits in 2015, while 23.1 percent provided these visits to at least a quarter of their eligible beneficiaries. 

Practices that adopted the annual wellness visit generated greater primary care visit revenue, saw greater stability of patient assignment, and brought in patients who were slightly healthier, on average. Among the reasons: patients were more likely to stay with the practice for a given three-year time period. 

Small and large practices had similar rates of adoption, the researchers found, but visit rates were lower in practices that cared for the historically underserved, including racial minorities and those living in more rural settings. 

Practices that have a high volume of medically and socially complex patients are missing out on the benefits due the low adoption rate, researchers found.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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