Biometric screenings and health assessments are common additions to many corporate wellness programs. In a Kaiser Family Foundation Survey, over half the wellness programs in large corporations either offered or required these assessments. Many companies that offer screenings offer financial incentives such as cash or reduced health care premiums. At first biometric screenings can seem beneficial to the employer. In theory, businesses will save money by identifying unhealthy people and making them aware of their health issues. In parallel, healthy employees are rewarded for their healthy habits and lifestyles. However, research suggests that annual health screenings offer extremely little health benefit to employees. Offering them is essentially a waste of corporate resources unless employers are actually utilizing the data they collect from the screenings to make meaningful decisions. Here’s why:
- It doesn’t help the employee. Many medical professionals believe that annual health screenings are unnecessary in adults who aren’t experiencing any symptoms. In fact, they can end up more costly for the employee as they delve into unnecessary follow up tests. For the most part employees are already aware of serious health issues. Additionally, evidence suggests that these screenings have little effect on lifestyle change.
- It’s expensive. Businesses don’t always save money by incorpating health assessments into their wellness program. Because these screenings don’t have a direct positive impact on employee health, they are wasteful on their own. Some companies require employees to pass health assessments to receive a discount on their health premiums, which can reduce health insurance costs for the employer. However, this can reduce employee morale and retention rates.
How to make biometric screenings effective
Biometric screenings on their own don’t actually improve employee health. They do, however, collect useful data for employers to act on. In order to make use of the data, study the results each year and created targeted interventions for those employees at the highest risk. That way, the data that’s collected isn’t just collecting dust, it’s actually informing company decisions and provides backing for programs that actually do impact employee health.
What does it all mean?
The least effective wellness programs are ones where the employer does nothing but biometric screenings. The most effective wellness programs use biometric screenings for data collection, and use that insight to deliver effective interventions. Unfortunately, most small and medium sized employers (under 1,000 employees) will not be able to do deliver on this in a cost-effective manner. They just don’t have enough employees in the at-risk categories to warrant the large investments in targeted interventions. That’s why most small and medium sized employers shouldn’t do biometric screenings. Instead of creating awareness-based wellness programs, they should create engagement-based programs. Engagement-based programs focus on getting employees to take specific actions that will directly impact their heealth (rather than just learning about them). These wellness programs are proven to help employees create and maintain healthier habits. They are much lower cost and create much higher employee engagement, making them a perfect starting point for smaller employers. Ask us how you can reward employees for sleeping well, eating right, and getting fit!