Biometric testing has become the latest rage in wellness programs. If you’re unfamiliar with this, biometric testing (sometimes called biometric screening) involves measuring employees’ blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, and similar measurements of employees’ health status.

This testing can be a very helpful and important part of a corporate wellness program in that it can make an employee aware of a health issue he or she may have so that it can be managed or corrected altogether. Companies like this testing because employees can become healthier, which in turn may lower the employer’s health insurance cost per employee. In fact, a 2013 survey conducted by software company bswift shows that most employers have implemented biometric testing in their wellness programs. Of the 380 corporate benefits managers surveyed, 77% of large employers test their employees. It’s important to remember that these tests must be done in a legally-compliant manner.

However, we’re all aware that it’s one thing to??know??your testing results and another thing to actually??do??something about them. Furthermore, that same survey showed that employers usually don’t require employees to improve the values revealed in the testing. What’s not revealed is why employees may choose not to improve their health once they know a value may be out of range. Whether an employee has an addiction, or just poor health habits, it’s difficult to near impossible to abandon short-term pleasure for the payoff of improved health.

An article on??Employee Benefit News??titled,??Get in the game: Health coaching helps employees buy into wellness, says that for employers to see a return on their wellness program investment, and for employees to help achieve their health goals, they should consider a wellness coach. A wellness coach can show people how small changes in their behavior can lead to lasting, beneficial results and can also motivate them to do this. For example, telling a smoker to quit, or an overweight person to diet, often doesn’t work. But asking a smoker if they want to stop coughing all the time, have their clothes smell fresh, and not always feel out of breath can often have the desired result of getting the person to stop smoking. Same for someone overweight, with high blood pressure, or with high blood sugar as a result of what they eat. Asking an obese person whether they want to walk without feeling joint pain, have more energy, and not take (and pay for) medicine to control their blood sugar can again bring about the desired change in the individual.

When employers offer incentives, such as contributions to an employee’s health savings account (HSA) or insurance premium reductions, coupled with wellness coaching and the one-on-one support employees receive from it, long-lasting effects are possible. The incentives often deliver an immediate call to action, especially with employees who are reluctant to improve their health, while coaching provides inspiration, guidance, and trust for these employees to continue with the program.

The wellness coach can utilize the results from an employee’s biometric test to show improvement and create that personal desire in the employee to remain engaged in the wellness program. In addition, a coach will likely inspire the employee to get excited about having a healthier lifestyle and show how these small improvements can lead to big results.

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