What is a Workplace Wellness Exam?
A workplace wellness exam is a type of occupational health service designed to help employees assess their own health. The goal of employers who provide these workplace wellness services to staff is typically to help employees improve their own health.
The logic behind wellness programs is simple: giving employess access to simple health exams can provide them with information that can encourage them to take personal actions that improve their health. Of course, health workers are happy workers, and happy workers are more productive. So, occupational wellness exams are usually seen as a “win-win” employee benefit.
Common Workplace Wellness Services
Diagnostic Blood Tests for Workplace Wellness
Common blood tests included in corporate wellness programs
Blood tests are designed to provide numerical data that show whether a paticular substance in a person’s blood is in a normal range or not. If an abnormal result is obtained on a workplace wellness exam blood test, the employee should follow up expeditiously with their primary care physician (PCP) to discuss the results. Further tests may be required, and their PCP may want them to come in for a comprehensive physical.
It should be noted that workplace wellness exams or diagnostic blood tests do not replace a person’s normal physician or the tests they typically receive from him or her. Wellness exams are merely an enhancement that may lead a person to explore a particular health issue more deeply with their PCP.
Biometric exams encourage staff to get more knowlegeable about their own health. Although a biometric screening is also administered by a health professional, it’s quite different from a workplace physical. Instead of looking at a specific set of physical requirements necessary for work-related tasks, a biometric screening examines the basics of an employee’s health, including weight, height, blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol, and a few other related factors that serve as a benchmark of their overall health.
Biometric screenings are typically conducted by a nurse or phlebotomist (person trained in taking blood) and involve a quick blood draw and physical examination as well as a family and personal medical history.
What are Biometric Screenings Used For?
Biometric screenings are not a part of the hiring process. Typically, they’re used as part of a workplace wellness plan and to help employers cut down on healthcare costs. It can also help limit sick days, and boost productivity. It’s almost impossible to mandate participation, so many workplaces offer incentives to employees and their families who go in for biometric screenings. Biometric screenings can either be conducted in the workplace or at a local urgent care, clinical lab or physician’s office.
By getting as many employees as possible to undergo biometric screenings, workplaces can give themselves more data on the general health of their employees. These screenings also help employees lower their health risks by offering cheaper tests that are easier to access. Overall, the short-term costs to the employer are worth the potential boost to their employee’s health and well-being.
How is Employee Information Protected?
A serious challenge to employers when offering workplace wellness programs is how to protect the sensitive health data generated from the exams, commonly referred to as “Personally Identifiable Information”, or “PII”.
Protecting PII in Workplace Wellness Exams
If workplaces set up diagnostic blood tests or biometric screenings as a benefit of their group health insurance, the data that is collected is considered protected health information (PHI). The HIPAA guidelines regulate how this information can be shared among entities such as healthcare providers and health care clearinghouses, but typically not with employers. On the other hand, if the wellness exams are provided to staff directly by the employer (and not as part of their health insurance offering), then HIPAA does not apply, but other federal or state laws may.
Generally speaking, while offering wellness programs are often a great idea, employers should be wary about gathering any health information on their employees unless it is not directly related to the performance of a physical job requirement.