Many employers offer their employees access to biometric screening as part of their overall wellness and health promotion program. These health screenings and how they work may not be familiar to all people. Let’s take a look and see what to expect when biometric screening is offered. (Learn more in Introduction to Biometric Screening and Benefits Of Use).

What biometric screening is and isn’t

A biometric screening is an appraisal of a person’s overall health status and health risks, and is based on having the individual's physical characteristics checked or measured.

It is not a traditional physical exam. No diagnosis is given. No drug testing is involved. A biometric screen cannot replace a traditional medical examination by a health professional.

The screening can take place in the workplace and might look like a pop-up clinic. Or, it can take place in the office of the vendor conducting the biometric screening.

Why employers offer biometric screenings

The results of a biometric screening will give a read on the overall state of health of the person examined and can uncover health risks they face. The hope is that employees facing health risks (for example, diabetes, heart disease, or stroke) will follow up with their regular doctor quickly.

The sooner such ailments are diagnosed and addressed, the better the health outcomes. The employee will be able to make lifestyle changes and medical choices that lead to better overall health and fewer complications. For the employer, healthcare costs will be lowered with early intervention.

What to expect when going through a biometric screening

The process of a biometric screening starts with scheduling the appointment. Since this will be part of the wellness program at work, someone from the HR department will most likely communicate when the screenings will happen and how to sign up.

As part of scheduling, instructions on what to do before the actual screening will be given and there will likely be some paperwork to fill out.

Any questions or concerns about the biometric screening should be discussed with the HR rep and addressed before the actual screening.

Before the screening, you will be asked to do a few things to prepare.

The specifics of these instructions can vary, but generally people are asked to do the following:

  • Fast for up to 12 hours before your appointment
  • Take any regular medications on schedule
  • Drink 16 ounces of water just before your appointment
  • Wear loose fitting sleeves that can easily be rolled up
  • Bring a healthy snack to break the fast after your appointment

People who are pregnant or have a medical reason that prevents them from fasting should talk with their HR rep to confirm what they need to do before their screening appointment.

During the screening, people can expect to have their pulse, body size, and weight measured, blood pressure checked, and blood collected. All of this should take about 15 minutes to complete.

Pulse is an indicator of heart health and blood circulation.

Weight, height, and waist circumference measurements are used to calculate your BMI or body mass index. A high BMI is an indication of obesity.

Blood pressure readings can indicate hypertension and risk for heart attack or stroke.

Blood can be collected either with a finger prick or through a blood draw. Analysis of blood samples can show indications of pre-diabetes, diabetes, high cholesterol, or thyroid problems.

After the screening, each person receives a report of their individual results. This information can be given on a printed card right at the end of the screen or via a secure website to be logged into later.

This report will include the specific readings gathered during the screening and whether there is any indication of a health condition or risk that needs to be looked into further.

If there is some indication of a health condition or risk, it’s up to the individual to follow up with their regular doctor or the company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

A doctor can diagnose any health conditions present and, if necessary, prescribe medication and/or lifestyle changes.

An EAP can provide resources to help with lifestyle changes, for example discounted gym memberships or nutrition classes. EAP resources vary by employer so check with HR for details.

What employers learn from biometric screening

Employers can receive general information from any biometric screenings that they sponsor. This general information provides them with an overall profile of their workforce, but no individual’s information.

Employers do not receive any results for individuals. Individual health information gathered during a biometric screening is protected under the privacy provisions of HIPAA and the ADA.

Employers can use the profile of their workforce to improve and support their workplace wellness efforts. Knowing how prevalent the risk for a health condition like diabetes or heart disease among their workers can lead employers to take action. For example, they could provide healthier food choices in the company cafeteria or support exercise classes on the corporate campus. By taking these steps employers can help their workers adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Why biometric screening is such a great tool

Biometric screenings provide both the employee and employer with information that can lead to a healthier future. For the employee, the information is personal and can lead to lifestyle changes and medical decisions. For the employer, the information is more general and can lead to wellness programs that support their employees’ health.