Annual Wellness Visits: What to expect and how to prepare
Your annual wellness visit is one of your best tools for staying on top of your health. It gives you time to talk with your doctor about your health risks and learn ways to stay healthy and injury-free. Your doctor might even recommend new habits to add to your routine. Plus, your visit will help keep you up to date on your preventive screenings and other tests.
Your annual wellness visit is covered one time per year at no cost to you. It’s one of the perks of being a Medicare member. So why not take advantage of it? Here’s what to expect:
What to expect from your Health Risk Assessment
Your provider will ask you to fill out a questionnaire called a Health Risk Assessment. Your answers can help you and your provider develop a prevention plan to help you stay healthy. Your visit may include:
- A review of your medical and family history
- A review of your current conditions and prescriptions
- Height, weight, blood pressure, and other routine measurements
- Personalized health advice
- A list of risk factors and treatment options
- A checklist of appropriate preventive services. Get details about coverage for screenings, shots, and other preventive services.
- Advanced care planning
Your doctor will also check for signs of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Signs of cognitive impairment include:
- Having difficulty remembering or learning new things
- Making decisions about your everyday life
If your provider thinks you may have cognitive impairment, Medicare covers a separate visit for a more thorough review to check for conditions such as dementia, depression, anxiety, and delirium.
Blue Medicare Advantage Members can learn more about their plan benefits here.
Questions to ask at your Annual Wellness Visit
When you go for your visit, your doctor will ask you many questions — but it’s important that you come with your own questions to discuss what’s on your mind. Here are some things you should cover during your visit:
What is my BMI (and why is it important)?
Your body mass index (BMI) is calculated from your height and weight and is used to identify possible weight concerns. Being overweight or underweight can have serious implications for your health. Your doctor can measure your height and weight and let you know if you’re outside a normal range.
Is my blood pressure under control?
Regular screenings for high blood pressure can help determine whether you’re at risk for other health issues such as heart disease and stroke. They can also determine whether you’re at risk for kidney disease, which is often undiagnosed until its late stages when symptoms appear.
How can I prevent falls?
Falls are the leading cause of injuries in older Americans, so talk to your doctor about getting a fall-risk assessment. Here are a few additional ways to prevent falls:
- Stay active to maintain strength and balance.
- Review medications with your provider.
- Have your vision checked.
- Make your home safer by doing things like removing throw rugs and improving lighting.
Any tips on how I can stop smoking?
If you use tobacco, your doctor can connect you with resources to help you quit.
How should I exercise — and what foods should I eat?
Two key parts of staying healthy are working out regularly and eating good-for-you foods that are rich in calcium, fiber, and lean proteins. If you have trouble making time to exercise or eat right, talk to your doctor about how to integrate healthy decisions and habits into your daily routine.
How can I stay mentally strong?
Changes in mood can be an important indicator of mental health struggles. Let your doctor know if you’ve been feeling down lately. They can connect you with a therapist who can help. They may also encourage you to try to stay active physically and socially, both of which can help boost your mood.
Sometimes I leak a bit of urine — what can I do about that?
Urinary incontinence may become more common as you age. Tell your doctor if you’ve been leaking urine so that you can find out why it’s happening and make a plan to manage the issue.
Which preventive screenings do I need?
Preventive screenings are a vital part of keeping you healthy, especially as you get older. But the type (and frequency) of screenings is different for everyone. Good places to start include screening for breast cancer and colorectal cancer and getting bone mineral density (osteoporosis) testing. Talk to your doctor about the screenings you need and how/when to schedule them.
AWV basics: Medicare.gov, Medicare Learning Network
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.