What is a Biometric Screening?

A biometric screening is also known as a "biometric health screening" or a "biometric assessment." It provides a clinical analysis that pulls a report of vital health statuses. The results of a biometric screening may be used to better identify certain risks or conditions like heart disease and diabetes or used to indicate if an individual has an elevated risk or is prone to these conditions.

Biometric Screenings in the Workplace

A biometric screening often plays an integral role in an organization's wellness program and/or health benefits. A screening may be performed at a health fair, a verified lab, at a biometric screening provider's location, or at the participant's residence using a do-it-yourself type kit. It's common for employers to offer a number of different options that will permit all employees, and sometimes their partners, to participate in the analysis or program set up for screenings.

Screenings associated with wellness plans are preferred in order to:

  • spot those who would take interest or benefit most from wellness coaching
  • provide accurate data for more goal-oriented incentive programs
  • review the results of programs over a period of time
  • help individuals make better choices when it comes to living a longer, healthier life

Screening results can be paired with a risk assessment briefing, questions that take a deeper look into certain characteristics of an individual's health status. This information is then reviewed to provide a more detailed review of their overall health and current status.

How a Screening Works

A biometric screening is usually done by a health professional, like a nurse or phlebotomist. It almost always involves an intravenous blood draw which the person receiving the screening ought to fast prior to getting blood drawn. Some of the providers that administer this screening tend to promote the finger-stick method, as it is budget-friendly and a bit more convenient. However, studies show that the results are fairly inconsistent and can be deemed unreliable. If you want the most accurate results there are, health care providers will almost always lead you to try the intravenous-fasting method.

The bloodwork is accompanied by a short questionnaire that pertains to the participant's behavior and family health records. It is used to give the screening provider a better assessment on the participant's health as of the day of the test along with flagging any risks that he/she may encounter when it comes to their health and wellness. Screening results and any health data adhere to and are protected by HIPAA laws, meaning that they will never be released to anyone without the approval or personal consent of the individual getting screened.

Biometric Screening Services

Biometric screenings provide the vital health information your employees need to kick start a healthier lifestyle. Conducting on-site biometric screenings can provide immediate feedback about employees' risk for diseases and illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and other chronic conditions that could affect them.

Combining these results with quality health education, the biometric screening experience can be a powerful motivation for positive lifestyle changes and a longer, more fulfilling life.

Drawing Blood or Finger Stick

A biometric screening needs some type of body measurements along with a collection of a small blood sample. Drawing a blood sample can be done with either a venous blood draw or a finger stick.

If using a blood draw, samples are reviewed at a specific laboratory. This allows a high quantity of tests to be analyzed at once, but also comes along with a delay from one week to 10 days before the results are processed and the assessment can begin.

When using a finger stick, screenings are typically processed onsite, giving the participant immediate feedback regarding their health. This method is also usually processed quicker than the blood draw method, and many consider this option to be a less invasive testing procedure.

Wellness Screenings

Any data collected is determined by some set variables that are stipulated in a health and wellness program's guidelines. The results also need to factor in the behaviors and characteristics of the individuals being tested. Body measurements are necessary. These may include:

  • Weight and height — to calculate the BMI (body mass index) to assess obesity risks
  • Blood pressure — to calculate cardiovascular disease risk
  • Neck — to calculate any risk associated with sleep apnea
  • Waist — a measurement of abdominal fat (which is also an indicator of diabetes)
  • Body fat percentage — another measure of obesity
  • Hip — to calculate the ratio from hip to waist and assess any risk for obesity

Tests that are performed along with the blood sample may include:

  • Lipids (LDL, HDL, overall cholesterol, triglycerides) — measures the overall risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Cotinine — to detect any regular use of tobacco
  • Blood level for glucose — to review risks associated with diabetes

Managing Data Collected from Wellness Screenings

A major issue for health programs and wellness plans is the actual collection of data from all the different channels and methods available for screenings, which then need to later be verified according to their eligibility. Afterwards, the results must be consolidated and the program needs to figure out a way to manage any exceptions and provide feedback to all those who have participated without delaying their results.

It is quite common for companies and health providers to significantly underestimate how complex using screening information for results-focused incentive programs can be. To maximize the investment for this type of medical-related screening, wellness plans and health programs should use modern and efficient technology that is target-setting oriented. This leaves room for reasonable alternatives to the overall end goal(s) to be more effectively managed, and results can be given in as close to real time as possible.

How long does the screening take?

The screening should last around 15 to 20 minutes. This depends on a number of factors like the provider, type of testing materials, and the individual undergoing the procedure.

How do I prepare for my biometric screening?

Before your screening appointment, it is a requirement to fast for 9 to 12 hours. This means:

  • Do not eat or drink anything except water; black coffee and tea are also fine (no cream or sugar, as these can alter screen readings dramatically)
  • Wear a sleeveless or loose-fitting top that allows you to roll up your sleeve for the blood pressure check
  • Drink plenty of water before the screening to stay hydrated and alert
  • Take any medications approved by your physician(s) as you normally would

If you currently have a medical condition that does not allow you to fast for at least 9 to 12 hours, it's advised to follow your health care provider's instructions.

Why should an organization decide to add biometric screenings to its budget?

Biometric health screenings should be considered from the very beginning, especially for any company looking to dramatically reduce insurance premiums. Biometric screenings provide an accurate assessment of the current health status of an organization's employees. Without these screenings, it's very difficult to create an efficient and effective health and wellness strategy that will work for the entire team and the company.

Benefits for Workers

Approximately 75 percent of health care costs are due to chronic conditions that could have been prevented. For example, heart disease can be prevented by monitoring food intake and performing moderate exercise. Early identification of certain risk factors, such as high or low blood pressure, can lead to better preventing larger issues -- and possibly fatal -- problems in the future.

A regular review of an individual's health can give clues and better insight at the current medical status to predict and prevent future medical conditions. Measuring an individual's risk for chronic diseases that are preventable, such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension can help the participant identify these risks and work with a professional toward strategies for improved health and well-being.

Additional Findings
Research has found that biometric health screenings can reduce a company's spending on health plans by recognizing certain factors that put employees at risk for certain medical attention. These screenings give employers the vital information they need to efficiently move in the best direction of their in-house health and wellness initiatives.

While most of the biometric screening results are not specifically revealed to the employer, a third-party provider assured by HIPAA will be able to see and review the data and potentially communicate with each person screened.

How does an employer get their workforce to participate?

As useful as biometric screenings are, they cannot function in an organization if the employee and their partner don't want to participate or don't feel like it is necessary for their current health status. An organization should never try to impose this matter on their employees or their families. No one appreciates having being told what to do, especially if when it comes to one's personal life or health. Moreover, federal regulations impose a number of rules and restrictions that make it nearly impossible to make this participation mandatory.

By incentivizing the procedure employers can increase the number of individuals who participate in the screening. This then gives them a more well-rounded idea of who has health risk on their team(s). Incentives can often be cash, prizes, trips, and PTO, or something like a health plan discount to lower insurance premiums for the participant.

When deciding on what the best incentives are for your organization, keep in mind that the entire program is designed to provide the best ROI possible. Consider all financial benefits of the screening before promoting or adding too much to the incentive program.

What do you do with the results?

Roughly 74 percent of companies provide biometric health screenings to their workforce, but only a small percentage of this figure actually are on board and move forward with the results they receive. Consistently encouraging employees to make healthier changes often requires more effort, time, and financing than most employers are willing to expense.

Because many employees are likely to go to different health and wellness practitioners, having a reliable and consistent health care management program would be difficult to achieve. To motivate more post-screening participation and communication, hire a third-party that specifically orients their business around assessing and engaging employees. Many vendors do not, as it is far easier to show up, perform the procedure by drawing blood, and later provide an analysis of the results.

A reputable screening provider will achieve this, not only reporting accurate biometric status, but the engagement and follow-up process with the employees who are at risk via telephone, mail, email, or direct messaging.

If you need help in understanding what a biometric screening is or have additional questions, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.