What is a biometric screening?
A biometric screening is a set of laboratory tests and measurements that are completed to give individuals a clear picture of their overall health.
They’re often provided as part of an employer’s health and wellness benefits. Screenings are completed by a health care provider or professional corporate wellness vendor, and the individual results are protected under HIPAA.
Getting tested can help employees identify their preventable health risks before they become costly problems. You may also hear them referred to as biometric testing or biometric assessments.
Screening results are often combined with a health risk assessment or questionnaire to collect information about lifestyle behaviors and other health indicators to provide a detailed overview of a person’s health and wellness.
Why are biometric screenings important?
Each year, nearly 900,000 Americans die prematurely from the five leading causes of death – yet many of those losses are preventable.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the five leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and unintentional injuries.
While it’s not possible to avoid all health risks, many serious issues can be avoided with changes in personal behaviors or with early diagnosis and treatment.
Biometric screenings can help to identify risk factors responsible for each of the leading causes of death.
Those factors can include:
- tobacco use
- drug and alcohol abuse
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- heart disease
- poor diet
- lack of physical activity
- unprotected or excessive sun exposure
- exposure to air pollutants and allergens
- exposure to occupational hazards
- unsafe home and community environments.
Biometric screenings can be the key to detecting health and wellness concerns before they become problems for your employees, and for your business.
What does a biometric screening measure?
During a biometric screening, healthcare providers will measure key indicators of physical health, and may also gather information about lifestyle choices and behaviors.
Screenings will likely include some, if not all, of these tests.
- Blood draw: The provider will draw blood (often using a finger prick) to measure cholesterol, glucose, and triglycerides. Participants may also be asked to provide fasting bloodwork at a lab.
- Blood pressure: Captured via an arm cuff. Resting blood pressure numbers of less than 120/80 mm Hg are considered within the normal range.
- Body measurements: The provider will record height, weight, waist circumference, and BMI measurements.
Who should participate in a biometric screening? How long does it take?
Any adult can participate in a screening!
Biometric screening isn’t a substitute for a regular physical exam or a visit with your doctor. These screenings are not meant to diagnose disease or provide care. But it may indicate possible risk factors. So for that reason, all of your employees should be eligible for this benefit.
A screening is especially beneficial if your family has a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or cancer, or if you have personal health concerns that you’d like to keep an eye on.
Individuals can complete an assessment every year to track progress and see changes over time. These assessments can be done at a medical center, at a worksite or on-site clinic, or at a commercial lab.
Screenings take about 15-30 minutes to complete. Most of these results are ready immediately, but IV blood draws can take up to 10 days.
Why do employers offer biometric screenings?
Employers who understand the importance of employee health probably already have a worksite wellness program in place. Biometric screenings are one part of that!
Employers may use biometric screenings to provide a baseline for overall workforce health. While individual employees’ results should remain private, the results of the screenings can be viewed in aggregate, so you can monitor and improve health conditions that can lead to more serious issues in the future.
Screenings in wellness programs are used to:
- Identify participants who would benefit from health coaching
- Provide data for wellness incentive programs
- Measure program outcomes over time
- Help educate and guide participants make healthier choices
For those employers in an industry that requires physical labor (like manufacturing, construction, or retail), a biometric screening can also help improve safety by detecting warning signs of chronic conditions that can contribute to work injuries and accidents.
Many companies offer an incentive for completing a screening. A study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) found that participation in biometric screenings soared by 55 percent when employers offered a small cash incentive. Other participation-boosting tactics include offering a screening clinic during work hours or on-site.
Biometric screenings are a popular choice because they provide actionable information, can engage the entire workforce, and are a fairly affordable benefit.
They’re favored by mid-sized employers and larger, and are a standard among the enterprise-level crowd.
However, screenings on their own are not engaging, and do not constitute a whole wellness “program.” But they are a valuable tool to help employees and employers understand their health and start to take action.
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