HouseCalls and Annual Wellness Visits: Why you need both

These yearly exams are both powerful — but different — ways to stay on top of your health. Learn how they work together to help maximize your care.

Hallie Levine
Woman having blood pressure checked

If you have your annual wellness visit every year, you may be patting yourself on the back for taking care of your health. And you should. That checkup with your regular primary care provider (PCP) is invaluable for your well-being. You can get a complete exam that looks for undiagnosed health issues and addresses medical concerns — and can make sure you’ve got a doable and effective treatment plan.

But it’s not the only type of checkup — many members are eligible for an additional in-home visit, too.

That’s where a UnitedHealthcare® HouseCalls in-home checkup can come in. Think of it as an extra layer of care in between your usual appointments with your PCP — and it doesn’t cost a thing. To see if your plan* includes HouseCalls and to schedule your in-home visit today, click here or call 1-800-934-0280, TTY 711, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET or 5 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT.

“A HouseCalls visit, where a health care practitioner spends about an hour in your home, allows for a more thorough evaluation and a way to engage patients in their own health care,” says Stephony Robinson, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, director of clinical operations for HouseCalls. “It’s a way of guiding patients to empower them to be in control of their own health.”

Here’s how the 2 appointments — your annual wellness exam and your annual HouseCalls visit — can lead to a healthier, happier you.

The unique benefits of your HouseCalls checkup

An in-home visit can support your health in many ways. Like a traditional checkup, you’ll get a range of screenings that may include everything from diabetes to poor circulation. You’ll even get a kit to check for colon cancer. And you’ll meet with a licensed medical professional, such as a nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant or medical doctor. But there are also some special benefits to booking this appointment.

1. You’ll get more time to talk about your overall health. The average in-office visit with a medical provider is about 18 minutes, according to a 2021 study in Medical Care. That doesn’t give you a lot of time to talk about your medical concerns and needs. But at a HouseCalls visit, you’ll spend anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour with your health practitioner. With that extended time together, there’s no need to rush through your questions and concerns.

Plus, a HouseCalls checkup can help you prepare for your next visit with your PCP: The in-home practitioner will help you create a list of recommended follow-ups. This can improve communication with PCP and help ensure that you get the information and care you need. And don’t worry: Your PCP will also receive a complete summary of your HouseCalls visit.

Did you know that a HouseCalls in-home checkup may be free with your UnitedHealthcare® plan?

There’s no cost, and scheduling is easy. To see if your plan includes HouseCalls and to schedule your in-home visit today, call 1-800-934-0280, TTY 711 or click here. The HouseCalls scheduling team may also reach out to members to offer an appointment.

2. You’ll get a comprehensive medication review. Many older adults take multiple medications, which can sometimes interact with one another. Yet among older adults who take at least 2 prescription drugs, only 1 in 4 had a comprehensive medication review, according to a 2020 University of Michigan report.

“When we’re in someone’s home, we ask them to bring all their medication bottles out. We don’t just rely on the list that they might bring into a provider,” says Robinson. “Occasionally, we’ve found that patients are doubling up on medications, or taking drugs that can interact with each other.”

If you have trouble remembering to take your medication, the practitioner can also help you identify barriers that make it hard to stay on track — and offer solutions to help you remember each dose.

Also helpful: You’ll receive a list of your medications in the mail after your visit, so it’s easy to take with you to future appointments.

3. The practitioner gets to see you in your own environment. A HouseCalls visit can be completed while sitting at your kitchen table or in the living room. You can even do it from your porch. As a result, you’ll be more relaxed and better able to focus on whatever health-related questions or concerns you have.

But spending time with you in your home can also help the HouseCalls practitioner better understand your needs. If you’d like, they can peek into your fridge and pantry and offer healthy-eating tips based on what they see. If you’re struggling to eat well — maybe pushing the cart is getting too hard or it’s been tough to find healthy groceries you can afford — they can connect you with programs and services that can help.

They’ll also be able to check your home for fall hazards, such as throw rugs or uneven stairs, and help you figure out how to reduce your risk. This is an important part of every visit: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 4 older adults suffer from falls each year, but fewer than half tell their PCP. Having an extra set of eyes on the place where you spend the most time can help keep you safe and maybe even help prevent future bone breaks.

4. You’ll get a reward.** It’s probably been a long time since you ended a visit to your medical provider with a lollipop, but now with HouseCalls, you get something even better: a reward card. Everyone who completes a HouseCalls checkup receives this thank-you for taking the extra step to care for their body and mind.

Ready to learn even more about why HouseCalls could be an important part of your care team? Download “The essential guide to your in-home checkup” now.

The unique benefits of your Annual Wellness Visit

In addition to a HouseCalls checkup, it’s important to also have your Annual Wellness Visit with your PCP. “There are some things that only a primary care provider can do during the yearly exam,” says Robinson. Here are a few of the most important ones:

1. They establish a rapport with you, which can help you get the right care when you need it. “If you don’t have a good relationship with your primary care provider, you could end up in the emergency room or at urgent care, which is expensive and not the best way to serve you,” says Robinson. “One of the best ways to build a relationship is to have an annual checkup, where you can have a conversation and make sure you have everything in place for your health for the rest of the year.”

Your annual wellness visit is a chance for you and your provider to build a stronger bond.

2. You’ll get the necessary immunizations. HouseCalls practitioners don’t administer shots, but they will recommend ones that you may be missing.

3. You’ll get an updated treatment plan. While a HouseCalls practitioner will conduct a medication review, they don’t prescribe new drugs, says Robinson. Your PCP is the one who will decide whether your current treatments are working — and whether to make any tweaks, such as switching medications or adjusting the dosages.

When you complete your Annual Wellness Visit and HouseCalls checkup, you help ensure that all your health care needs are getting the attention they deserve. The payoff for that? A potentially longer and stronger life.

Ready to take your care to the next level?

To see if your plan includes a free annual HouseCalls visit and to schedule your in-home visit today, call 1-800-934-0280, TTY 711 or click here.

 

*HouseCalls may not be available with all plans or in all areas.

**Reward card eligibility varies by plan type. Please allow 3 to 4 weeks after the completion of your HouseCalls visit for delivery of your reward card.