Patient Perspective: An Annual Wellness Visit Saved My Life

Article | 04/25/2023

My name is George Marmo and today, I’m able to enjoy time with my grandson because an Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) caught prostate cancer early enough to save my life.

When I turned 65, I was due for an Annual Wellness Visit. During my appointment, my provider noted a family history of prostate cancer and recorded this risk factor in my Personalized Care Plan. He then began regular testing and screening as a preventive measure.

A few years later, during a subsequent AWV, he referred me to a urologist after observing my prostate-specific antigens (PSA) trending upward. When my PSA continued to rise, the urologist performed a biopsy and confirmed cancer cells in my prostate. I began radiation treatment immediately and today, I am cancer-free. I am grateful to my entire Care Team, and if it wasn’t for this proactive approach, the outcome may have been drastically different.

I now get my PSA checked regularly as part of my subsequent AWV. During my last visit with my urologist, my PSA was below 1 and nearly undetectable, which was a huge relief. Each month, my provider and his care coordinator call me to discuss medication adherence and any changes to my overall health. They deliver AWVs not as a fee-for-service, but as a value-added and proactive service, and they know how much it means to me and their other Medicare patients.

I learned so much more about my health risks by engaging with my provider and my ACO. For all the men out there, who are over the age of 55 and especially 65 and on Medicare, I highly encourage you to get your Annual Wellness Visit and stay vigilant. My new mantra to all my friends and family is “KNOW YOUR NUMBER.”

I had another impactful AWV experience just this past year. Because of a family history of diabetes, we have been screening glucose and HbA1c levels as part of my annual AWV. In 2021, my HbA1c was trending upward and just below the upper limit. In 2022, it measured just above, which meant I was pre-diabetic.

Again, we took proactive measures to address this chronic condition as part of my updated care plan. Instead of medication, I began monthly visits with my provider’s dietitian/nutritionist to address the situation holistically. Today, I am eating healthier and exercising more frequently, and my numbers are trending downward. These visits are virtual and come at no cost as they are a preventive service.

Both of my AWV experiences are a testament to Medicare’s Quadruple Aim of improving the patient experience and the health of the patient population, reducing the cost of healthcare, and improvement in work life of the clinician and their staff. It also advances the goals of value-based care at the center of Vytalize’s ACO — to reduce costs and improve quality. I know Vytalize leadership likes to say “we get paid more for value and less for service.”‍

The AWV is more than simply asking questions and getting answers; it’s about following through with a Personalized Care Plan and delivering preventive services each and every year. I know that my provider cares about me as a person and my overall health and wellness. Today, I feel like I’m in the driver’s seat and more in control of my health.

I encourage all providers to be proactive and deliver AWVs to their entire Medicare patient population. This value-based approach to healthcare will change outcomes for your Medicare patients for the better and help reduce  costs. Not only can this can lead to higher scores on quality measures and financial rewards for our ACO, but it will save lives, too.‍

George’s story is just one example of the importance of Annual Wellness Visits. Providers, learn more about the benefits of AWVs here.