Are health screenings six feet under?
With the movement away from traditional wellness to a more holistic approach to employee well-being, are health screenings dead?
Well, the answer is yes and no.
HR and Benefits professionals are very aware of a shift in the employee wellness industry towards addressing all aspects of employee health. Services promoting mental health and financial health are becoming more and more popular as employee benefits, along with specialty healthcare solutions like genetic testing and pharmacy cost-savings plans. The topics of industry tradeshows and webinars have shifted from physical wellness to social determinants of health, and now, more than ever, employers are viewing these comprehensive well-being benefits as mandatory for obtaining and retaining talent.
So, it seems like your basic biometric health screening programs that only focus on physical health are dead and gone, right?
Yes, but the key words there are “basic” and “only.”
Health screenings open the door for other health improvement opportunities and well-being programs.
The days of offering a 1-time screening event as the only wellness initiative are gone, but that’s not to say health screenings have no value. Biometric health screenings have evolved to become what employers should use as the jumping-off point for all other well-being offerings. Instead of simply offering a basic screening of height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol measures, additional testing can be added to get the right people into the right auxiliary programs.
For example, one employer has a program to help those with diabetes manage their condition and obtain diabetes-related medications and supplies at a reduced cost. Instead of broadcasting this offering to everyone, the employer can screen for fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1c. Then, those with results in a diabetes range can be given more information on the diabetes management program. If the employer also has a diabetes prevention program, those with results in a prediabetes range can be encouraged to participate in that program.
Another employer has a mental health solution. It is widely regarded that chronic health conditions and mental health issues go hand-in-hand. Instead of offering screenings separate from a mental health solution, the employer can often find value in encouraging those at risk for—or actively dealing with—cardiovascular disease or diabetes more heavily to participate in the mental health initiative. Likewise, those who are enrolled in the mental health initiative can then be given the opportunity to complete a screening once every quarter or twice a year (instead of just annually) to actively monitor physical health and prevent issues from becoming chronic conditions.
Where do we go from here?
Ultimately, basic health screenings that do not link participants to next steps for maintaining or improving their health are a thing of the past. But that doesn’t mean screenings should go by the wayside. In fact, insights from screenings can enhance other employee wellness and well-being programs. The key is to incorporate screenings into those programs in ways that make screening data an integral part of the individual employee experience.