What Works to Get Wellness Visits Scheduled?
December 16, 2019
Lessons from one successful UH primary care practice
UH Clinical Update | December 2019
Getting more patients to make appointments for wellness visits with their primary care physicians was a priority for University Hospitals this past year – for the health of individual patients, and for population health as a whole.
In terms of population health, the UH Accountable Care Organization gave primary care practices the names of patients on Medicare, who, based on CMS guidelines, had to have their wellness visit appointments by the end of June. Practices could then reach out to those patients and get them scheduled.
The UH Westlake Internal Medicine Practice, led by Sona Kirpekar, MD, got exceptional results. Dr. Kirpekar is also Regional Medical Director for the UH Primary Care Institute Northwest Region.
“It was really a group effort,” says Dr. Kirpekar. “The ACO coordinator worked with my practice manager to identify the patients. If they needed a wellness visit and had an upcoming appointment, that was switched to become a Medicare wellness visit – and if they didn’t have an appointment scheduled, we called them to schedule an appointment before the end of June.”
The practice – which is two decades old, and was the first UH practice in Cleveland’s western suburbs - historically has done a fair number of wellness visits with patients, she says.
“We’ve always done this. The big push this year though was for the Medicare wellness visits – to do that, our support staff was engaged in helping. Our office manager, the medical assistants, the office staff, all worked together to make sure we got people scheduled.”
The goal was to have 80 percent of Anthem Medicare patients seen by the end of June, and the practice hit that mark.
After June, the emphasis shifted to wellness visits for all patients. “We advise most of our younger patients to get wellness visits too, if they haven’t had one,” Dr. Kirpekar says.
Of course, the crucial element for this success at the Westlake practice has been, and continues to be, scheduling the patient’s next wellness visit before he or she leaves the office.
“If you come in for a physical, we make sure you schedule next year’s while you are here – our patients have been trained to do that,” she says.
The staff also checked to see which patients were due for screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and called them to set up the appointment for the screening.
“But for most of our patients, we take care of making those appointments during their annual wellness visits,” she says.