July Annual Wellness Visit fairs a success, with more to come

10 months ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Earlier the month, Northern Light AR Gould Hospital hosted three Annual Wellness Visit fair days for patients with Medicare. A total of 234 patients were seen over those three days at what is being considered a great success, and more fairs are planned on Aug. 3, 8, and 9 as well as in September. 

“The Annual Wellness Visit program is an important resource for preventive care,” says Ruth Hanson, who helps to manage this program in AR Gould’s primary care practices. “It was developed to give patients the time they need to sit down and talk with someone without the same time constraints a regular appointment has. It’s a chance for a more comprehensive discussion, instead of being limited to a specific health issue.”  

Hanson explains that these special “fair” days were created to help make people more aware of the service and to catch up on ground that was lost in these types of preventive visits during COVID. 

“These AWV fair days are giving patients an opportunity to see what an annual wellness visit is all about. They also are allowing us to offer this service to a large volume of patients in one day,” explains Hanson. “Most importantly, we were able to connect many patients with community resources and referrals for preventive screenings they would not have received otherwise.”

The patients also clearly found value in their visits, since nearly all scheduled an AWV for 2024 in their PCP’s office. An annual wellness visit is recommended and paid for by Medicare, and there is no co-pay or deductible to be met. 

Feedback from patients who attended one of the first sessions has been very positive, according to Hanson. “Patients shared that they liked the opportunity to sit and speak with a provider without feeling rushed. Many said they didn’t know what to expect when they scheduled the visit and now realize what a great chance it was to speak to a provider about personal needs that they don’t usually have time to talk about during a regular office visit. Some commented about how they appreciated the information they received about accessing community resources, such as Agency on Aging programs, and there was a lot of feedback about how friendly and attentive the staff were.”

During these fairs, patients meet with a member of their primary care team to go over medical and family history and medications; help develop a preventive health plan; take routine measurements; and screen for things such as fall risks and depression. Primary care providers are also on hand should questions arise that require further investigation. This is also when providers may make referrals for needed screening exams or for specialty care and will connect patients with community resources and partners for other kinds of support.

“Most of the time when we see our provider it is because we are following up on a chronic condition or seeking treatment for an illness.  These AWVs are a chance to discuss how to prevent health issues and maintain or improve health.  They are performed yearly so we can touch base and adapt your preventive health plan to meet your needs as they change. I highly encourage people to take advantage of this opportunity that is covered at Medicare at no cost to them,” says Hanson.

For those who didn’t make it to one of the July AWV fairs, providers and staff will be working with patients again on Aug. 3, 8, and 9; and Sept. 12, 13, and 20. All sessions will take place in the Northern Light Health Center on North Street in Presque Isle between the hours of 8 a.m. from 5 p.m. For more information or to see if you qualify for a visit, call your primary care office and ask about the Annual Wellness Visit Fair.