health screening workplace wellness

Report Highlights Health Screening Opportunities as Part of Health Benefits

Last week we reported on the Kaiser Family Foundation’s  2017 Employer Health Benefits Survey, which includes important insights around the benefits of a well-run workplace wellness program.

The report highlights the growing role that companies see for a well-run workplace wellness program in terms of helping reduce over health costs and improve employee health: “Firms continue to show considerable interest in programs that help workers identify health issues and manage chronic conditions. Many employers believe that improving the health of their workers and their family members can improve morale, productivity and reduce health care costs. In addition to wellness programs, many large firms use disease management programs to help workers manage chronic conditions.”

The report also notes an important program design opportunity for companies: Better integrating health screenings into their approaches.

The report states: “Among firms offering health benefits, 44% of small firms and 69% of large firms offer workers a health risk assessment, biometric screening or both screening programs. The scope and administration of screening programs vary considerably across firms, and some firms use different administrators for different programs.”

  • “Among firms that offer a health screening program, an insurer or third-party administrator administers some health screening programs at 87% of firms, third party vendors, such as wellness providers, administer some screening programs at 29% of firms, and the firm itself administers some health screening programs at 9% of firms.”

The report also notes the role of incentives and wearables:

  • “Thirty-seven percent of large firms offering health benefits have an incentive for workers to complete biometric screening or a health risk assessment. Among large firms with an incentive for either health screening program, 34% have incentives for workers not enrolled in the health plan and 49% have incentives for spouses enrolled as dependents in the plan.”
  • “Among firms offering health benefits, 8% of small firms and 14% of large firms collect information from workers’ wearable devices, such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch, as part of their wellness or health promotion program.”

As we have reported previously, workplace wellness screenings can be rewarding for both the employee and employer when carefully selected and strategically deployed. Before adding tests to their workplace wellness programs, among the questions that employers can ask include: “How does this screening benefit my employees, and is it necessary? Is the workplace an appropriate place to conduct this screening? Do we have the resources available to respond to the test results?”

Screenings for common issues like high blood pressure, blood glucose level, and high cholesterol can be beneficial for employees varying in age and health status, and are rarely harmful. In fact, “they may be the only medical attention some employees receive,” writes Joanne Sammer in a recent Society for Human Resource Management article. An employee without a primary care doctor might not know that he needs to control his blood pressure or how to do it. If his employer can share testing results and subsequently provide guidance and support to make positive changes, such as a diet recommendations or a fitness tracker, then that employee is one step closer to better wellbeing.