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Understanding the Value of the Wellness Visit: A Descriptive Study

      Introduction

      Clinical preventive services can reduce mortality and morbidity, but Americans receive only half of the recommended care. Although wellness visits protect time for clinicians to review needs and discuss care with patients, studies have not shown that having a wellness visit improves health outcomes. This study seeks to understand the types of discussions and volume of care delivered during wellness visits.

      Methods

      Using a sample of 1,008 patients scheduled for a wellness visit from 22 primary care clinicians across 3 states from 2018 to 2019, electronic health records were reviewed, and a subset of visits was audio recorded. The discussion and delivery of clinical preventive services, as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, were measured, and new diagnoses were identified from the clinical preventive services. Analyses were completed in 2020.

      Results

      Even though patients were up to date with 80% of the recommended clinical preventive services 3 months after the visit, only 0.5% of patients were up to date with all the recommended clinical preventive services. On average, 6.9 clinical preventive service discussions occurred during each wellness visit on the basis of electronic health records review, and 7.7 clinical preventive services discussions occurred on the basis of audio recordings. An average of 0.4 new diagnoses was identified, including cancer diagnoses, cardiovascular risks, and infections.

      Conclusions

      Wellness visits are an important time for patients and clinicians to discuss prevention strategies and to deliver recommended clinical preventive services, leading to the identification of previously unrecognized diagnoses. This will improve patients’ health. Policies and incentives that promote wellness visits are important, and efforts are needed to deliver them to those most in need.
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