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Annual Wellness Visit, covered by Medicare, urged for all eligible participants

Annual Wellness Visit, covered by Medicare, urged for all eligible participants

Jun 15, 2023

Local South Jersey woman said visit, conducted via video chat, “was like having a conversation with a girlfriend in my living room!”

Gail Hagen
Gail Hagen

Gail Hagen, of Newfield, was one of those fortunate people who had been quite healthy well into her seventies. She is also someone who takes control of her health, partnering with her care team. In fact, when high cholesterol became an issue a few years ago, she modified her diet, exercised more and was able to control her numbers so effectively that she and her primary care physician were able to discontinue a medication.

“I work out on an elliptical five days a week,” she said, “I stay on top of my diet. I go to doctors when I’m supposed to.”

Gail continues to be an active participant in her own health care by taking advantage of a program called the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. It allows patients covered by Medicare Part B to have a yearly “check-in” with a medical professional and can be done in person or via telehealth.

Inspira Medical Group patients, like Gail, have the visit via video from the comfort of their own home, talking with a specially trained registered nurse.

During the wellness visit, patients answer questions about a wide range of topics, including their physical and mental health, living environment, symptoms they might be having, medications or prescriptions, immunizations, food insecurity, transportation challenges and other issues.

They can also ask their own questions.

Though the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit is not a physical exam and does not take the place of regular appointments with a provider, it provides a structured, yet casual, opportunity for patients to discuss their needs and challenges and get recommendations or follow-up from a medical professional.

Gail’s first annual wellness visit happened to follow an unrelated health issue - a diagnosis of cancer that led to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments last year. She worked with Angel Hall, R.N., from Inspira Medical Group and she said it went smoothly right from the start.

“Angel made me feel comfortable immediately,” Gail said. “She listened. She was so professional and sensitive to me and my answers. Very detailed. And she had such empathy for what I was going through. She’s a doll!”

Gail’s treatment had required numerous office visits and hospital stays, making the at-home nature of the wellness visit even more welcome. She said throughout her treatment, her care team at Inspira, in Mullica Hill and Vineland, helped make a difficult journey just a little easier.

“I love Inspira,” Gail said. “I felt like I had my own personal support system.”

Gail’s cancer care team, which she called “amazing”, included: Erev Tubb, M.D., medical director of the Inspira Leading Edge Cancer Center; David Lowther, M.D., medical director of Radiation Oncology at the Cancer Center; and Nandini Kulkarni, M.D., Inspira’s medical director of Surgical Oncology, who performed Gail’s surgery at Inspira Vineland. Gail also cited her primary care physician, Gregory Stiefel, D.O., of Inspira Medical Group and her gynecologist, Vivian Vega, M.D.

“The staff at Mullica Hill made me feel like family,” she said. “I think that helps patients feel less frightened. Dr. Stiefel worked with me to get healthier before and after my diagnosis and Dr. Vega checked in on me all the time. Dr. Tubb and I have talked on the phone multiple times after I went to see him. And if I do have to come in to see anyone, they make the arrangements easy. It’s been great.”

Gail said completing her wellness visit via video made a difference.

“I like to talk to people through their eyes. It was great to put a face with the voice. And this was such a great way to give information and ask questions without having to drive to a hospital or an office.”

Gail even introduced John, her husband of 61 years, to Angel during the call.

“In fact,” she said, “he had just come from his in-person annual exam at Inspira.”

Gail said she thinks that doing the wellness visit from home might result in health care providers getting more complete information about their patients.

“The whole experience was more relaxing than having to travel,” she said. “For some people, transportation can be an issue. Plus, it felt less intimidating. Angel talked to me in plain language, on my level. It was like having a conversation with a girlfriend in my living room! I felt like I was better able to express myself.  It felt safe.”

Topics: Primary Care