Health Assessments and Biometrics 101
February 14, 2019

Health Assessments and Biometrics 101

By: Healthstat

You may already know about company health assessments and biometric screenings (and if you’ve read our previous article on ‘What to Consider’ with an onsite clinic, you’ll most likely remember the phrase). But what do biometrics really mean? And what’s being ‘assessed’ in a health assessment? Read on to get the low-down on Healthstat’s behavioral change model and learn why it’s the cornerstone of any successful population health management program.

What are Health Assessments and Biometric Screenings?

A health assessment with biometric screening gathers detailed medical and behavioral information, making employees more aware of their health needs and the steps it will take to improve them.

The behavioral information is what steps up a health assessment into more than just ‘check-up’ territory. The key in a health assessment with biometric screening, guided by Healthstat’s dedicated, full-time health assessment team, is the focus on behavior as the crux to any successful wellness program.

The fact of the matter is that while much of a person’s health expresses their genetic make-up, it’s not the end-all, be-all. Behavioral changes and new lifestyle habits have been unequivocally proven to improve health across a variety of metrics, demographics, and individuals. While perfect health is a valuable goal, increasing our chances of living a long and healthy life is the real target we have the ability to hit.

How do Health Assessments with Biometrics work?

Before any biometrics are measured (height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, etc.), Healthstat clinicians ask participants to complete a brief questionnaire that gauges their readiness to address health risks, including questions around smoking, physical activity, and diet. The key concept behind this questionnaire, and one that’s present throughout all of Healthstat’s wellness programs, is that of a behavioral readiness to change.

The Road to Behavioral Change

Studies have shown that there are various levels of readiness for change that an individual will experience on the path to healthier living. These levels are:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance

Precontemplation is when an individual is not ready to make any changes to a particular habit. They might not even be aware of the habit that’s detrimental to their health.

Contemplation occurs when an individual becomes more aware of the negative impact of a behavior or habit. At this juncture, they’ll be actively thinking about making changes. They're described as being on a teeter-totter, weighing the pros and cons of making lifestyle changes. They are ready to absorb information and reflect on their thoughts and feelings. 

Behavioral Change

Preparation is a stage during which small steps are initiated toward change. The decision has been made to change a habit. It's during this time that we hope the individual will gather the information needed to guide them successfully when the move forward to action. 

Action occurs when an individual has fully committed to a behavior change and is in the midst of adopting new habits. A person seeking healthier eating habits, for example, will most likely have begun to eat more fruits and vegetables, reduced their intake of unhealthy fat and sugar, and may have even begun a light exercise regimen. It doesn’t matter how many habits are being changed or tackled; what matters within the action phase is that an individual is intentional about their daily choices with an eye toward improving habitual behavior.

Maintenance typically occurs six months after a new habit has been developed. This is when less energy is needed to stick to a new habit, because it’s been ingrained into the daily life of the individual.

While this four-step process is typically linear, Healthstat’s process understands that a regression back to some aspects of old, unhealthy habits is part of the cyclical nature of change. So, it’s common to see one moving from action or maintenance back into contemplation. This is not viewed as a failure, but rather an intrinsic part of the nature of behavior change. The importance lies in moving back to action (and eventually maintenance) and choosing not to give up on the new habit(s).

The Word on Biometrics

Of course, behavior change is not the only aspect of a health assessment. It’s also important to gather biometric readings as an indication of physical health. This will include measurements taken like height, weight, BMI, waist circumference, blood pressure, and even blood glucose and blood lipid tests.

These measurements are key to a population wellness solution, along with the behavior change model, because it indicates to a patient the areas of their life that need to be addressed. It also provides a helpful ‘baseline’ measurement that not only paints a picture of a population at large, but also gives everyone a benchmark by which to evaluate their health progress.

The best news: Healthstat’s behavioral questionnaire and biometric screenings take roughly twenty minutes to complete. What comes next is the beginning of life-changing new habits.

Do These Health Assessments Work?

It may sound like a great idea: assessing how ready a person is to make changes followed by a baseline look at their biometric readings. But does this improve population health? And does it lower healthcare costs?

The Facts

Research shows that 74% of employers now include a biometric screening as part of their workplace wellness program. Besides providing a baseline for a population’s health, screenings also:

  • Help detect disease in its early and most treatable stages – even before symptoms are recognized – and provide a summary of a participant’s health
  • Improve both health and financial outcomes by significant margins (37% of employers reported greater health risk improvement and 34% reported a lower healthcare claims trend)

Onsite Screenings or Primary Care Screenings?

Of course, it is possible for your employees to complete health screenings with their primary care providers. But the problem is that traditional barriers to primary care access (time, finances, and clinic scarcity) remain for many employee populations. Onsite screenings remove these barriers to promote timely employee participation. But is it cost-effective?   

A team from Employee Benefits News (EBN) set out to answer this question by analyzing claims data from 2007 to 2015. Using a per-capita cost of $65 per onsite screening, the team analyzed data and modeled the salary levels of employees — ranging from minimum wage to a six-figure salary.

The result? Onsite screenings are consistently more cost-effective to employers than primary care provider-based screenings. Key findings include:

  • Onsite health screening is more cost-effective than primary care provider-based health screening across all study years — from 2007 to 2015.
  • Health screening at a primary care provider may cost between 2.1 and 3.2 times more than an on-site health screening.
  • At all salary levels — from minimum wage to salaries of more than $150,000 — it is more cost-effective to use on-site health screening.

Health assessments with biometric screening are the cornerstone of every successful health and wellness program. Couple it with the ease of access and availability from an onsite clinic, and you have a winning formula for long-lasting healthy change. The long-term savings in healthcare claims is just the icing on top.

Connect with Healthstat for more information on behavior change.