Keenan Blog

What is a Biometric Screening and Why Should You Offer it as Part of Your Employee Wellness Program?

April 11, 2019

By now, we’ve all seen the sci-fi and action movies with dramatic scenes of high-tech systems like voice and eye scans for access control and identification. But biometrics are also being applied as an important tool in health and wellness.

You may have heard them referred to as a biometric screening, biometric assessment or biometric health screening. They all refer to the same process of gathering vital data on an individual’s health risk factors which can then be used to provide recommendations or referral to health improvement programs.

The goal is to identify current and potential risk factors, leading to a personalized plan for managing those conditions to optimize a healthy lifestyle. Corporate wellness programs typically start with a biometric screening to set a baseline, then continue over time to assess the effectiveness of wellness program interventions.

How Do Biometric Screenings Work?

Biometric screenings are typically offered at the workplace, but employers may offer other options for biometric screening, such as a medical lab, personal physician, or at home. This kind of flexibility is designed to encourage as many employees as possible to participate.

A biometric screening may also be accompanied by a health assessment through either an online quiz, or with a health coach, to gather more detailed information on various risk factors. The good news is that the entire process can take as little as 20-30 minutes.

Screenings are conducted by health professionals, such as a nurse or phlebotomist. They typically include drawing blood for lab work, for which fasting may be required. In addition, questions are usually asked about personal behaviors, history of medical conditions, and health improvement goals.

It’s important to note that all this data and information is protected by HIPAA privacy laws. Employers that offer these benefits are recommended to use a third party vendor to ensure that the data is kept confidential, and they only receive access to aggregate health risk data.

What Does It Include?

Factors addressed in a screening can cover:

  • Blood sugar and diabetes
  • Blood pressure
  • Lipids (e.g., cholesterol)
  • Body composition (e.g., body fat, BMI)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Cotinine (related to tobacco)

Preparing for a screening is simple:

  • Follow any guidelines on fasting
  • Wear comfortable clothing with easily rolled up sleeves
  • Drink water beforehand
  • Continue to take regular medications

This important information can then be evaluated and connect the participant to ongoing program and resources, such as wellness coaching and support, to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Why Do It?

The majority of healthcare costs are connected to chronic conditions. Managing these conditions can help address this important societal issue, and can also create a positive impact on day-to-day quality of life and longevity for the individual.

The biometric screening participant is given the opportunity to become more educated and aware of the factors that affect their health, and can provide them the motivation to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle through positive changes and early detection of potential health threats. Incentives for participation can include cash, prizes, paid time off or discounts on insurance premiums.

For employers, offering these programs for your employees can help reduce insurance premiums, increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, and improve on-the-job safety. It’s a win-win for all concerned.

If you’re not sure whether your employer or insurance plan offers a wellness program, ask!

About Danielle Keenan, MPH
Danielle Keenan provides consulting to Keenan clients to design, implement and evaluate best-practice population health management programs. She provides her expertise in developing engagement strategies and programs to address lifestyle risk factors and improve management of chronic conditions to minimize avoidable health care utilization. She holds a B.A. degree in Psychology from California State University - Long Beach and an M.P.H. degree in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).