By: Dr. Jeff Davis, Family Practice, Memphis Medical Services
Scotland County Hospital and its rural health clinics, Memphis Medical Services, Lancaster Medical Services and Wyaconda Medical Services, have recently begun offering a heightened focus on preventative health services. Provisions in the Affordable Care Act of 2010 included programs that would be rolled out year by year. Ramping up high quality prevention programs was one of these provisions. The Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) developed a new benefit to its recipients called the Annual Wellness Visit. This benefit is offered every 12 months to Medicare beneficiaries and is covered at no cost regardless of having a supplemental insurance plan or not. However, this Annual Wellness Visit, is not a physician visit or a physical examination. This is not to be confused with a “Well-Woman Exam” or a “Yearly Physical”. Historically, patients were used to these terms referring to their yearly visit with their physician including a physical examination. However, Medicare’s “Annual Wellness Visit” is completely different and is designed to be an annual visit conducted at the request of your physician to review your progress on completion on all of your recommended preventative health services. This might include a mammogram for breast cancer screening or a colonoscopy for colon cancer screening or a pneumonia vaccination for immunity against certain types of pneumonia.
At Scotland County Hospital we have teamed up with High Performance Network, an organization assisting healthcare facilities with the identification, contacting, and scheduling of Medicare beneficiaries in order to receive this free benefit from Medicare. The goal of the Annual Wellness Visit is to screen our patients for the presence of certain conditions and to review their current preventative health preparedness in order to identify problems early and prevent the preventable ones. Population based research has shown this to be a much more cost effective way to deliver healthcare to our patients. Another way to think of this program is like a vehicle or other machines preventative maintenance schedule. When you buy a new car, why do you ask the dealer or review in the owner’s manual when its preventative maintenance visits are recommended? What benefit is changing a vehicle’s oil and oil filter or air filter or rotating the tires, etc.? It is to spend a small amount of money on prevention to avoid a major breakdown and having to spend a large amount of money for repairs. Preventing disease in humans works in the same way. Research has proven it is more cost effective to spend a relatively small amount of money on preventative health services to avoid the high cost required to treat a disease that could have likely been prevented.
Many of our patients and community members have received calls from employees of High Performance Network working on Scotland County Hospital and Clinic’s behalf. Your caller ID may have been from a number outside of Memphis, like Marshall, MO for example. And the caller may have been a female with a ‘Southern’ accent. These calls have been authorized by SCH and these callers are reaching out to our patients in a collaborative agreement to assist us in identifying patients in need of preventative health services, such as the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. Furthermore, we have recently began offering the second stage of our comprehensive health program. This next step was to identify patients of our healthcare system who have chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure or high cholesterol, but who had not been in to see their physician or nurse practitioner for a follow-up visit as recommended at their last visit. This program is called “Gaps-in-Care”. High Performance Network’s team identifies these patients with gaps in their routine chronic disease management and contacts them to assist with scheduling a follow up as recommended by their SCH healthcare team. This is done by a phone call to the patient as well.
Finally, the last part of our comprehensive preventative healthcare services program is Preventative Wellness Visits and Well Child Visits. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 required Medicaid Programs and commercial insurance carriers offering Obamacare plans to cover an annual physician or nurse practitioner visit for adults and children to cover all preventative health maintenance recommendations including cancer screening, immunizations, screening for diabetes or high blood pressure, etc. Many patients don’t realize they have this benefit from their health insurance company and therefore, do not take advantage of it, missing out on the opportunity for their “oil change” check up. This program is designed to inform our patients and our community of their insurance benefits and our recommendations for best practices when it comes to preventative healthcare services.
If you receive a call from someone identifying themselves as calling on behalf of Scotland County Hospital, Memphis Medical Services, Lancaster Medical Services, or Wyaconda Medical Services encouraging you to schedule an appointment with your healthcare team to follow up on one of your chronic medical conditions or to take advantage of an annual preventative health evaluation, please consider doing so. You may be perfectly healthy, with no medical conditions, but your insurance may offer this and it’s a benefit for you to accept. If you have questions or feel uneasy with the phone call, please reach out to us at Scotland County Hospital or one of our rural health clinics and relay the information you received to see if we can assist you in any way possible and clear up any questions or concerns. You can speak with someone at the hospital by calling 660-465-8511 or Memphis Medical Services at 660-465-2828.