Upon the completion of phase one of our pilot project in a Missouri based Federally Qualified Health Center, we decided the best way to get the message out about our company was to visit various health centers across the country.

Having empty nests and the desire to see the country, mixed with a sincere disdain for hotel living, our best option was to take to the open road. In May 2017, we sold our home and moved full time into a motorhome RV.

There have been a lot of surprises along the way — one is just how many folks are on the road with us. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, 750,000 to one million retirees live full time in RV’s, and that number is increasing.

Another thing that surprised me is the number of companies that will happily let you set up camp (for a day or so) as you are traveling through their area. The most popular companies that allow this are Walmart, Cracker Barrel and Cabela’s. It was in one of the Walmart parking lots that an epiphany came to me.

When you live in your RV you do everything there. You sleep, eat, work and shower there.  Now I’m not sure about everyone, but I don’t wear swimming trunks when I shower. So, that means while I’m taking a shower in my RV in a parking lot, I’m about as vulnerable as one can be. That realization of vulnerability washed over me (pun intended) and caused me to ponder: What are the risks involved for us and our contemporaries on the road?

Living in a RV doesn’t really make me more “at risk” of theft or other such things. Our RV is pretty darn secure and my two dogs would make short work of an intruder. The thing that is worrisome however, is how I’m often hundreds of miles away from my doctor. We all know (or should know) that providers, specialists and hospitals do not share patient records well. So, if something happened that left me unable to communicate my health status, I’d be out of luck.

Because my business is helping primary care providers set up their Medicare prevention programs and the fact that so many of the full-time RVers are retired, this epiphany stood out even more.

So, how does one deal with this concern? Medicare has two programs that can help. The Welcome to Medicare (IPPE) and/or the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) assess patients from head to toe once every year (without a  physical exam). The best part is both of these services are completely free to the patient (no copay). The second best part is how both services handsomely reimburse the provider for their efforts.

As it stands, Medicare does not require a medical record to be completed as part of these visits, but wouldn’t it be valuable to use this opportunity to incorporate it? I know what you are thinking:  “How will I do an hour visit with my patient AND complete a patient accessible medical record at the same time?

I’m glad you asked.

Innovative Health Media was a Personal Health Record platform BEFORE we became an Annual Wellness Visit and Welcome to Medicare platform. We already develop that record as part of the visit.

 

There are a several reasons for this, but one that stands out for providers is that a record of the visit helps to prove all of Medicare’s requirements were met in the event of an audit.  Most EHR templates fail to adequately protect a provider from audit.

 

For patients a Patient-Accessible Health Record could be invaluable to help them communicate with other healthcare providers in the event of an emergency.  For those full-time Medicare recipients on the road, the value is even greater. The fact this record was created and is maintained by their primary care provider makes it reliable. If patients carry PCP created records with them to an emergency department — even hundreds of miles from home — the triage nurse will be more likely to trust those records.

The healthcare industry has known for years how important personal health records are for patients but with Medicare’s preventive visits we now have a way to pay for them.  Of course, these PHRs can and will help all your patients but if you have Medicare patients who travel the country — whether as a full time RVer or as a snowbird — you really should consider making health records part of your wellness program.  

Simply put, don’t leave your patients vulnerable and unprepared while living on the road or camping in a parking lot.