A biometric screening is a clinical screening that’s done to measure certain physical characteristics. It can be used to assess your:
- body mass index (BMI)
- blood pressure
- blood cholesterol
- blood sugar
The goal of a biometric screening is to give a snapshot of your health and alert you to any changes in your health status.
The screening may be offered by your employer, your union, a public health organization, or nonprofit groups. It may also include wellness counseling and education, risk assessments, and exercise programs.
Biometric screening isn’t a substitute for a regular physical examination by your healthcare provider. It doesn’t diagnose disease. But it may indicate possible risk factors.
Let’s take a closer look at what a biometric screening is, what to expect if you have this screening, and how to prepare for one.
A biometric screening aims to alert you to any possible health risks. It also provides an easy way to keep track of changes in your vital statistics from year to year.
The screening process is quick, and it usually takes place at your workplace.
Your test results are often available right away and can alert you to potential health conditions, such as:
Employers use biometric screenings to get a sense of employee health risks. Sometimes, employers offer incentives to encourage employees to participate in the screening.
It’s thought that identifying risks early may help reduce employer healthcare costs, although this is a subject of ongoing research and debate.
By providing an opportunity for employees to stay on top of any health issues, an employer may benefit from improved performance and productivity.
- A 2015 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 18 percent of small firms and 50 percent of large firms offer biometric screenings.
- A 2015 study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) found that when employers offered financial incentives for screening, participation increased by 55 percent.
- The same 2015 study by EBRI found that biometric screening results led to people filling prescriptions for medications to reduce blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and manage depression.
Research from 2014on a New Mexico community program that offered free biometric screenings found that the program saved future health costs by delaying or preventing chronic diseases.
During a biometric screening, your vital statistics are measured, and blood work is usually part of the screening, too. Some screenings may also involve a complete blood count (CBC).
A biometric screening is typically used to measure and assess your:
- height, weight, and waist measurement
- body mass index (BMI), an estimate of your body fat based on your height to weight ratio
- blood pressure and pulse measurement
- fasting blood glucose levels
- blood cholesterol levels and triglycerides
Some screening programs may include a measure of your aerobic fitness or ask about your tobacco use or exercise habits.
A biometric screening usually only takes 15 to 20 minutes. During the procedure you can expect the following:
- A healthcare professional will measure your height and ask you to step on a scale.
- They may use a tape measure to measure your waist circumference and possibly your hip circumference.
- They’ll put a blood pressure cuff around your arm to get a blood pressure reading.
- They may draw your blood from a finger prick or a needle in your vein (venipuncture).
- You may be asked to fill out a short questionnaire, which asks about your medical history or any health issues you may be concerned about.
Remember, the biometric screening doesn’t involve diagnosis. It only indicates possible risk factors.
Some programs may have a healthcare professional discuss your results with you. Also, your employer may provide follow-up programs, such as nutrition counseling.
Many employers will hire a specialized company to do the screening on-site or at a screening facility.
In some cases, your employer may provide you with a kit to do a screening at home. Or they may have your primary care doctor conduct the screening.
Your employer or the company doing the biometric screening will advise you about any specific preparation for the screening.
In general, you may need to do the following before a biometric screening:
- Fast for 8 to 12 hours. Don’t drink anything except water, black coffee, or tea before the screening.
- Stay hydrated. Being well hydrated can make it easier to find a vein if your blood needs to be drawn via venipuncture.
- Dress comfortably. Wear a top or shirt that allows you to easily roll up your sleeve for blood pressure measurement or a blood draw.
- Take your medications as usual. If you have any questions about this, ask your employer.
- Refrain from exercise for 12 hours. If recommended by your employer or the company administering the biometric screening, avoid exercising beforehand.
Some or all of the biometric screening results will be available to you within a few minutes.
If your blood sample is sent to a laboratory, blood results may take a week or longer. The results will be sent to you by mail or electronically, depending on which you request.
Biometric screening programs are usually voluntary. To increase participation, some employers offer incentives, such as lower out-of-pocket health insurance costs or a cash bonus.
In some cases, an insurance company will require biometric screening as a condition of the employer’s health insurance policy.
Any medical information in your biometric screening is considered protected and private under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.
This means that your personal information can’t be disclosed to your employer or anyone else unless you authorize it.
Some states may have additional laws that protect your privacy. Some federal laws also offer health privacy protections, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Affordable Care Act.
A biometric screening is a fancy name for a collection of your vital statistics. This type of screening typically measures your BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar.
The purpose is to give you information that might indicate risk factors for certain chronic conditions. If you’re at risk of diabetes or high blood pressure, for example, seeking treatment sooner can lead to a better outcome.
Screenings are usually voluntary and aren’t a substitute for a regular medical checkup with your doctor. Your screening results aren’t a diagnosis.
Your results are private. Some employers may offer special services as a follow-up, such as exercise programs or nutrition counseling.