29 Mar Wellness: Over Screening or Over Reacting?
Written by John Patrick, Regional Sales Director at Bravo
Should people have a health screening every year? That’s a popular question that has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Many medical associations (CDC, AMA, AAFP, etc.) now agree that an annual screening is NOT necessary. While helpful for individuals, the updated recommendations have also created confusion for employers as they evaluate their wellness programs.
Here are four questions to consider when evaluating annual screenings as part of your wellness program.
ONE: Have we read the fine print for screening recommendations?
No medical association has issued a blanket statement that annual screenings are not necessary. The recommendations always have several caveats. For example, Duke University Health System recommends, “If you’re under 30 and healthy – don’t smoke, no disease factors (including being overweight) and don’t take prescription medications” you can get a check-up every two to three years.
Now, think about your workforce. How many of your employees are under 30, don’t smoke, have no risk factors or do not take prescription medications? Great! What about the rest of your workforce? Duke Health goes on to say that if you’re between age 30-40 and healthy (i.e. no risk factors) you should get a physical every other year. Once you turn 50 you should begin annual physicals regardless of health status. Again, think of your workforce. When you apply the screening caveats listed above how many of your employees should screen less frequently? Unless your workforce is primarily young, healthy people the majority of your employees still need more frequent screenings. Offering screenings through your wellness program is a convenient way to help employees be aware of their health status.
When medical associations provide screening guidance it is primarily focused on individuals. If your company offers a wellness program you should be thinking in terms of population health management and not merely individual health. For your employee population, what percentage of employees likely need annual screenings due to their age/health factors? That is a different question than, “I’m a 30 year old male that is healthy. Should I get an annual physical?”
TWO: Do we have high turnover or is our company growing?
If you have high turnover or if your company is growing then offering annual screenings may benefit new hires. That was easy.
THREE: Do we want to be ACA compliant?
ACA regulations stipulate that employees must have the opportunity to qualify for incentives annually. Now, think about your wellness program. Do you offer an incentive? If so, is that incentive tied to participating in an annual screening? Do you reward people for meeting health-related goals? Do you reward people for making personal health improvements? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then your employees must have an opportunity annually to earn the incentive. That opportunity does not have to be in the form of an onsite screening, but it DOES need to be an annual screening of some sort (walk-in clinic, doctor’s office, etc.).
FOUR: Do we want to bridge the analytics gap?
Analytics is the holy grail of health management. Savvy employers and benefits consultants frequently sift through their claims and utilization data in search of insights. New technologies are allowing employers to turn these insights into strategies to control health care spend. Here is the problem. On average, only 40%-50% of employees actually have claims in the system. This represents a significant blind spot for health analytics. When do many employees appear in your claims for the first time? Yup, after a major medical event. Offering annual screenings allows you to collect more data and bridge the analytics gap. As a result, you’ll be able to cultivate more targeted strategies to improve the health and wellbeing of your employees.
Best of luck as you continue building a strong workforce.