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Medicare News

Few Seniors Getting Medicare Wellness Visits; Few Doctors Offering Them

Survey says majority of doctors not prepared to meet demand for Medicare wellness visits; boomers stretching ability to serve Medicare needs

May 8, 2012 – One of the key strategies for Medicare implemented by the Obama health reform bill is a shift away from treating illness to a focus on preventing illness through efforts such as increased preventive health screening and paying doctors for advising senior citizens on how to live healthier lives. A new national study says, however, that a majority of healthcare practices across the country aren’t prepared to meet the demand of the 46.6 million Medicare beneficiaries who are now eligible for these wellness visits.

As Healthcare expenditures in the United States near $2.6 trillion, TeleVox Software, Inc., a leading provider of patient engagement communications (EC) services, today released a Healthy World Report titled, Healthcare Change: The Time is Now. The report addresses the healthcare industry’s essential shift away from primarily treating illness to keeping seniors healthy.

 “With Medicare facing trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities — meaning it will have to pay trillions of dollars more than is coming in – there is an understandable push for preventive care,” said Scott Zimmerman, President, TeleVox Software, Inc.

“In order for the program to be economically sustainable, costs must be lowered without compromising care. Our focus must be helping Medicare recipients manage chronic conditions, which have accounted for as much as one-third of all spending growth in recent years.”

According to findings from the study, Healthcare Change: The Time is Now, more than half (56%) of American baby boomers do not feel good about their overall personal health, and one in four (26%) say they are struggling to be healthy.

“This feedback is a wakeup call highlighting the importance of preventive care and of the need to change the culture of reimbursement so that healthcare providers are motivated to focus on wellness,” said Zimmerman.

As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – sometimes referred to as “Obamacare” -  that was signed into law in 2010, the new Medicare wellness benefits task doctors with creating personalized prevention plans tailored to each patient’s daily routine, mental health and family life.

“The wellness visit, however, is just the first step in an overall care strategy. The larger – and most critical – piece of the patient care strategy is the personalized wellness plan,” said Zimmerman.

Study Highlights

   ● The aging baby boom population is straining the Medicare program finances, which are projected to balloon to $929 billion by 2020, an 80 percent increase over 10 years.

   ● More than half (56%) of American baby boomers do not feel their overall personal health is in good shape, and one in four (26%) say they’re struggling to be healthy.

   ● Two in three (66%) healthcare practices report being ill prepared to create personalized prevention plans that are tailored to each individual patient's daily routine, psyche and family life.

   ● Despite the fact that doctors are now being reimbursed by Medicare for talking with patients on an ongoing basis about healthy behaviors, 71 percent (71%) of healthcare practices report being unprepared to engage patients throughout the year with communications that help them adhere to their personalized prevention plans.

Based on identified areas of risk, physicians are now expected to work with their Medicare patients to schedule the appropriate preventive benefits.

The free preventive benefits provided under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act include services such as flu vaccines, smoking-cessation counseling, regular mammograms and preventive screening for diabetes, colon cancer, and prostate cancer; and free screenings for blood pressure, body mass index and depression issues, among other services.

Healthcare Change: The Time is Now, however, found that two in three (66%) healthcare practices are ill prepared to create personalized prevention plans that are tailored to each individual patient’s daily routine, psyche and family life.

“The truth is, physicians’ historical care model has been to treat people who are sick. The incentives have not rewarded an intense focus on promoting overall health by improving their patients’ daily routines and concentrating on prevention,” said Zimmerman.

“Patients know they have to take responsibility for their own health, but they need support and collaboration from their healthcare providers that goes beyond a visit, some advice, and a prescription.”

The study also revealed that, despite the fact that doctors are now being reimbursed by Medicare for talking with patients – primarily senior citizens - on an ongoing basis about healthy behaviors, 71 percent of healthcare practices surveyed report being unprepared to engage patients throughout the year in an effort to help them adhere to personalized prevention plans.

The survey results work well for TeleVox – the company says it “is solving this problem with technology that that makes it easy for healthcare providers to schedule and educate patients about the Medicare wellness visit and related benefits, and then engage them with information that will help them stick with their prescribed prevention plans.”


Related Archive Stories


Preventive Services Not Offered by Doctors at Annual Exams; Seniors Most Often Ignored

Docs mention about half of recommended preventive services to older patients; most recommended are tests for colorectal cancer, hypertension, breast cancer - Jan. 26, 2012

Medicare is Trying to Save Your Life; Needs You to Help by Using Preventive Services

Download this free, handy sheet for keeping track of your free Medicare preventive services - Jan. 22, 2012


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President Zimmerman added, “As medical practices adapt to the new healthcare requirements, they will be increasingly rewarded for outcomes that are best achieved by proactively managing care through preventive treatment plans and following through on those plans. The time required for this level of personalized engagement by physicians, nurse practitioners, or other staff – for thousands of patients in a practice – is perceived to be unrealistic.

“However, this degree of personalized care is possible when healthcare practices leverage multi-touch, multi-media notifications technology to automate follow-ups with patients that encourage them to schedule tests and doctor appointments, provide just-in-time medication reminders, and support them in making positive behavior changes to create a healthier lifestyle.”

About The TeleVox Study – Healthcare Change: The Time is Now

Healthcare Change: The Time is Now is based on a survey of a nationally representative sample of more than 2,200 healthcare providers representing a variety of specialties and disciplines. The research was conducted using an email invitation and an online survey format.

In addition to surveying healthcare providers, TeleVox also worked with Kelton Research to survey a nationally representative sample of 1,015 Americans ages 18 and older.

>> Information on Medicare’s prevention benefits, go to the Share the News. Share the Health! website: call 1-800-MEDICARE.

>> Medicare Spending and Financing Report by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation:

>> About Televox:



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