A successful wellness program aims to enhance employees’ holistic health and well-being, whether physically or mentally. On the physical side, this involves health screenings to monitor key health metrics such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and sleep patterns. In the past, this process was tedious and manual. However, technology now allows providers to record different types of biometrics efficiently and accurately.
Biometrics help employees better understand and improve their well-being through personalized insights. In turn, employers can also use this information to create targeted interventions, track progress, and enhance overall program effectiveness.
Read on to learn more about how biometrics can help your company streamline health tracking and make the most of wellness programs. Some of the questions we seek to answer include:
- What is Biometrics?
- What are the 2 Main Categories of Biometrics?
- What are the 9 Most Common Types of Biometrics Used in Healthcare?
- What Insights Can These Types of Biometrics Bring to a Wellness Program?
- How Can Using these Types of Biometrics Benefit Your Employees and Your Company?
What is Biometrics?
In its simplest form, biometrics is the science of identifying a person using unique physical or behavioral characteristics. Examples include facial structure, finger ridges, hand geometry, and the patterns of an iris. Every person carries multiple human traits that are a unique form of personal identification. These traits make it easy and convenient to identify, verify or authenticate their identity.
With rapid digitalization, the use of biometric data has become increasingly commonplace. From unlocking smart mobile devices to authorizing purchases, biometric authentication is widely used to confirm identity. Traditionally, a person might enter a password or show a driver’s license as proof of identity. However, these methods are not foolproof. Passwords can be compromised. Passports and licenses can be misplaced or lost.
On the other hand, a person’s unique characteristics are immutable throughout their life. For example, fingerprints will generally remain the same over the years. Additionally, they are harder to lose (unless the hand is severed!). This makes biometrics systems very reliable to accurately identify people.
The use of biometric identification is not new. As early as the 1850s, biometric identifiers like fingerprints and body measurements were used to identify people. Today, biometrics is integral to security systems and the criminal justice system. More recently, particularly post-pandemic, types of biometrics have also become crucial to the healthcare and wellness industry.
What are the 2 Main Categories of Biometrics?
Biometric identifiers come in two main categories:
- Physiological – unique physical characteristics of an individual’s body. Examples include fingerprints, facial recognition, iris and retinal scans, palm print, hand geometry, ear shape, finger vein patterns, DNA matching.
- Behavioral – unique patterns or actions that are distinct to an individual. Examples include voice recognition, keystroke dynamics, gait analysis, signature verification, typing rhythm.
The choice of a biometric identifier depends on the desired use and application. However, the following are some of the most common biometrics:
- Fingerprint Recognition: From airport scanners to Disney parks, fingerprint recognition is one of the most widely used biometric modalities, primarily for identification. Grand View Research says the fingerprint recognition segment accounted for 49.4% of the global healthcare biometrics market in 2021. Common uses include authenticating medical staff and patients to ensure secure access to electronic health records (EHRs) and other sensitive data.
- Facial Recognition: Facial recognition technology maps a person’s facial structure, focusing on features unique to each individual. In healthcare, facial recognition technology helps predict health characteristics and monitor medication adherence. The technology also applies artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning techniques, and sophisticated algorithms for enhanced verification or authentication. This helps reduce errors, prevent fraud, and improve overall patient safety.
- Iris Recognition: This highly accurate biometric modality captures the unique pattern of a person’s iris (the colored part of the eye that surrounds the pupil). In healthcare, iris recognition can be used for secure access control and patient identification, particularly when hygiene and non-contact solutions are essential.
- Voice Recognition: With the rise of conversational AI chatbots, voice recognition technology is an invaluable tool in today’s healthcare digital transformation. The technology can authenticate healthcare professionals and patients using their unique voice patterns. They can schedule appointments, or transcribe medical records, among other uses. This can be particularly useful for telemedicine or remote care.
- Hand geometry: A person’s hand can be used for access control of secure identity verification of patients and caregivers. However, hand geometry is generally less accurate than other biometric authentication methods such as fingerprint, facial, and iris recognition.
What are the 9 Most Common Types of Biometrics Used in Healthcare?
Like most industries, healthcare has evolved rapidly over the past few years. “The global biometrics as a service in healthcare market size was estimated at USD 569.1 million in 2021, and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.6% from 2022 to 2030,” reports Grand View Research. This growth can be attributed to cost-effectiveness, enhanced patient care, data security, and overall efficiency.
In the post-pandemic healthcare space, biometrics has become a cornerstone of modern medicine. In contrast to other industries, healthcare uses biometrics for more than data security and fraud prevention. Thanks to technological advances, it’s now possible to collect health data using wearable fitness devices and trackers. Care teams can use this data to foresee and prevent potential health challenges.
9 common types of biometrics used in wellness include:
- Heart Rate Variability (HRV): HRV measures the variation in time between heartbeats and is an indicator of overall health and well-being. HRV monitoring helps detect stress, fatigue, fitness, and cardiovascular health. Wearable devices like smartwatches and fitness trackers have made it easier than ever to track heart rate data, making it a popular biometric for wellness programs.
- Blood Pressure: Regular blood pressure monitoring is essential for managing and reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other serious chronic illnesses. It’s a must-have in wellness initiatives, and can be achieved with wearable blood pressure monitors or organizing regular biometric screenings.
- Blood Glucose (HbA1c) levels: Blood glucose monitoring is crucial for individuals with diabetes or at risk of developing the condition. According to the CDC, “People with diabetes are two times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people without diabetes.” Incorporating blood glucose monitoring into your wellness program can help employees manage their diabetes effectively and reduce healthcare spending.
- Body Mass Index (BMI): BMI is a simple calculation based on an individual’s height and weight. Although it has limitations, BMI helps assess the risk of obesity-related health issues. This is a valuable tool in designing weight management programs for employees.
- Sleep Patterns: Sleep plays a crucial role in mental and physical health. Luckily, the market is full of innovative sleep trackers that provide insights into an individual’s sleep quality, duration, and consistency. These insights can help you develop programs to address sleep-related issues, promoting overall well-being.
- Cholesterol levels: Monitoring cholesterol levels, including total cholesterol, LDL (low-density lipoprotein), HDL (high-density lipoprotein), and triglycerides, is essential for assessing cardiovascular health and determining the risk of developing heart disease.
- Physical activity: The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends “at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity-equivalent aerobic activity weekly for substantial health benefits.” Adults should increase this to more than 300 minutes per week for additional and more extensive health benefits. Consequently, tracking steps, distance traveled, and calories burned helps assess an individual’s daily activity levels and overall fitness.
- Oxygen saturation (SpO2): This measure indicates the percentage of oxygen-saturated hemoglobin in the blood, providing insight into oxygen delivery and overall respiratory function. The SpO2 reading of a healthy person should be 95% and above. People with chronic lung disease and sleep apnea may have lower readings.
- Mental well-being: While not a direct biometric measure, assessing mental health through self-reported questionnaires or psychological tests can help identify stress, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. When combined with data from other biometric tests, the contents of an HRA can help identify and mitigate health risks that may impact overall wellness.
What Insights Can These Types of Biometrics Bring to a Wellness Program?
Biometric measures provide a range of insights to organizations and individuals alike, helping them understand health trends and develop targeted interventions to improve well-being. Some key insights that these biometrics can bring to a wellness program include:
Identifying health risks
Biometrics like high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, or abnormal blood glucose levels are urgent red flags to address. Regular monitoring allows for early detection and prevention of potential health issues, saving organizations substantial healthcare costs.
As with everything else, in disease prevention and management, you can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you are. By monitoring biometric data, wellness programs help tailor interventions to address specific health needs, such as weight management, stress reduction, or exercise plans designed to improve cardiovascular health. This can lead to improved outcomes and greater employee satisfaction.
Designing interventions is just one step. Ensuring consistent adherence to recommended mitigations is another. Regular biometric assessments enable individuals to track their progress over time, providing motivation and feedback on the effectiveness of wellness interventions. From weight loss to blood sugar management, access to real-time biometric data helps individuals keep track of their progress and adjust where necessary.
Encouraging employee engagement
Of 87% of American workers who have access to a wellness program, only a minority actually participate. Reasons for underutilization vary, but lack of awareness of potential offerings and how they relate to individual needs is a common factor. Using biometric data, employers can more effectively create engaging wellness challenges tailored to their employees, encouraging them to take an active role in their health and well-being.
Assessing program effectiveness
Analyzing aggregate biometric data helps organizations evaluate the overall effectiveness of their wellness program over time. This allows them to identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to enhance the program’s impact on employee health. It also helps design more effective interventions and earn a better return on investment.
How Can Using These Types of Biometrics Benefit Your Employees and Your Company?
Beyond improving the wellness program, biometrics can have several other positive outcomes for your employees and your organization. These include:
Promoting a healthy work culture
A wellness program that utilizes biometric data helps employees achieve better health outcomes by addressing their unique needs and supporting their individual goals. Healthier employees are more productive, take fewer sick days, and have higher job satisfaction. They’re also better brand ambassadors and contributors to a supportive work environment prioritizing health and well-being.
Lower Healthcare Costs
Private employers pay a third of the country’s personal health care spending burden. With healthcare costs escalating each year, most wellness programs are designed for holistic wellness and disease prevention. Preventive care measures, enabled by biometric monitoring, can prevent or mitigate chronic conditions, leading to significant cost savings in the long run.
Increased Employee Retention
The past three years have been some of the most turbulent in recent history. From the pandemic to the war in Europe to a looming recession, there are many reasons to be anxious. This season has also ushered in unprecedented voluntary employee turnovers for most employers, leaving many scrambling for talent in a rapidly evolving job market.
Employee retention looks different in 2023. A comprehensive wellness program with biometric monitoring of key health parameters can boost employee satisfaction and loyalty. As a result, companies that invest in their employees’ well-being are more likely to retain top talent, reducing the costs associated with employee turnover.
Enhanced Corporate Reputation
Employee well-being is one of the pillars of a company’s ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) score. With increased emphasis on human capital, a robust wellness program incorporating biometric data can improve your company’s image as responsible and forward-thinking. This will help attract and retain new talent.
A healthier workforce is likely to be more focused, productive, and engaged. Employees with healthier and more balanced lifestyles have fewer missed work days and perform better. Using biometrics to drive your wellness program allows you to create an environment where employees can thrive and contribute to the company’s success.
In today’s dynamic corporate landscape, prioritizing employee wellness is no longer a luxury but a necessity. As stress-related illnesses, mental health challenges, and the sedentary nature of the modern workplace continue to rise, companies are increasingly focusing on fostering employee well-being.
Leveraging different types of biometrics can help you make valuable data-driven decisions. Using physical and behavioral biometric health data, you can create personalized wellness plans. This will promote preventive care and foster a healthier and more engaged workforce.