Engaging Patients in Preventive Cancer Screenings & Annual Wellness Visits

In September 2021, quality and operations leaders across the network came together for a Learning Exchange aimed at supporting year-end quality performance and patient engagement opportunities. The discussion focused on sharing best practices and solutions to pandemic-related challenges.

Participants addressed the growing concern of patients who have not yet received preventive cancer screenings and annual wellness visits (AWVs), some for the second year in a row, leading to delayed diagnoses and an increase in healthcare disparities. Key coding and documentation practices were also discussed, along with new resources VHAN is developing to support these aims.

Here are some of the key takeaways of the Learning Exchange:

  1. Explore opportunities beyond colonoscopies for colorectal cancer screenings. With patients less likely to schedule colonoscopies due to hesitancy or lack of time, Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) kits for at-home tests may be a more convenient option. One practice keeps FIT kits in-house to distribute to eligible patients during existing appointments. Another option is to combine flu vaccines with FIT tests through the American Cancer Society’s FluFIT program, where FIT kits are given to eligible patients who come in for their annual flu shot. VHAN’s preferred FIT test vendor is Polymedco, and our team is happy to provide additional information about their services.
  2. Lean into the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model to schedule mammograms. By partnering with administrative staff, one practice is identifying patient care needs during existing appointments, such as AWVs. Focusing on breast cancer screenings, the goal is to order and schedule mammograms before the patient ever leaves the office. This helps to coordinate care for patients as much as possible, a key tenant of the PCMH model.
  3. Turn AWV questions into personalized conversations. To optimize time during an AWV, use non-physician staff to complete key components of the visit*, such as the Health Risk Assessment (HRA) and patient risk factor assessments. As team members become familiar with the questions, they can turn those into conversations with patients while they start the visit and check vitals. This approach helps patients feel comfortable, rather than feeling like they are being interviewed. It creates better experiences for patients and cultivates stronger provider-patient relationships. One practice shared that this approach saves time, as you can multitask while asking questions.
  4. Prioritize outreach through patient stratification. While the goal is to engage all patients who need preventive screenings, many practices are challenged by limited time and staffing shortages. It can be beneficial to prioritize outreach to the patients who need it most. Start by identifying high-risk patients, patients with multiple chronic conditions and those who have the most open care gaps. You can leverage the monthly reports you receive from VHAN to identify patient opportunities.

*Important note: Please reference the Medicare AWV Components & Care-Team Checklist to confirm care team members eligible to conduct certain components of the visit.

Access the full recording of the Learning Exchange here as well as the slide presentation here. Coming to your inbox soon are new miniVHAN podcast episodes and resources focused on preventive screenings and AWVs. If you have any questions about how we can support your team’s end-of-year quality goals, please reach out to your network contact, or email us at info@vhan.com.

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