New WHI project will examine disparities in Annual Medicare Wellness Visit participation

As part of the Washtenaw Health Initiative’s (WHI) commitment to health and racial equity, the organization will facilitate a collaborative data project with Michigan Medicine and Integrated Healthcare Associations (IHA). The goals:

  • To understand differences in Annual Medicare Wellness Visit (AWV) participation across their respective patient populations in Washtenaw County; 
  • To understand the root causes of those differences; and 
  • To build a strategy for increasing Annual Wellness Visit participation.  

Annual Wellness Visits are yearly appointments between Medicare beneficiaries and their primary care providers. 

These wellness visits give patients an opportunity to speak with their physicians about their own health, mental health, and social concerns. And they give providers an opportunity to perform a comprehensive evaluation for their patients, which include preventative care, screening, and chronic disease management.
While AWVs are beneficial for both patients and health care providers, the use of AWVs is low nationwide, especially among individuals with low incomes and ethnoracial minorities. The persistence of low AWV utilization rates among communities of color is a particular concern, and suggests that further efforts may be needed to engage both patients and providers.

The WHI and its collaborative partners–Michigan Medicine and IHA–hope to identify which patients are absent in care for Annual Wellness Visits and the root causes that may be contributing to disparities.

To do so, collaborative data partners will provide aggregated Medicare AWV data for the last three years (2018, 2019, and 2020) and the WHI will compare Medicare AWV participation by race, disability, age, and zip codes. Ultimately, the project will create a population-level snapshot of AWV uptake that will foster conversations about health and racial disparities, potential root causes, and strategies for closing the gaps.

The Center for Health and Research Transformation (CHRT), backbone to the WHI, will provide the WHI with project management and data analysis to advance this work. Washtenaw Health Initiative leaders will oversee the process.