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Clearly, the pandemic has had a big impact on health care. How have biometric screenings in particular been affected?

Before the pandemic, many employers offered on-site biometric screenings. The on-site option was a great way to make getting screened easy for employees, as they didn’t have to take off work or travel to an appointment.

Also, employers often made them part of a bigger wellness fair, where they could share information about other health resources.

When the pandemic hit, a lot of employers canceled their on-site events due to safety concerns and often because they had a lot of employees working remotely.

At the same time, we know a lot of people deferred preventive care in the first year of the pandemic, which meant they didn’t get screened at annual exams. So we started to hear a lot more interest in at-home biometric screenings.

How have at-home kits evolved?

Our previous biometric screening kits screened blood glucose and cholesterol, as well as some self-reported data: height, weight and blood pressure.

We now screen for (or monitor) prediabetes or diabetes with A1c instead of blood glucose, as the test performs better in at-home kits. We’ve also added a screening kit for colon cancer, and that’s something we’re especially excited to offer.

Why is adding an at-home colon cancer screening important?

Colon cancer, like so many other health conditions, has better treatment options and better outcomes when it’s identified early. Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered the recommended age for colon cancer screenings to 45. So that’s a lot of people who should be getting screened.

But we know many adults don’t get regular colonoscopies for a variety of reasons: They may not want to take a day off work, or they may simply avoid it because they think it’s uncomfortable.

Our at-home colon cancer screening is a convenient option for many people at average risk. It takes just minutes, and if the results show a potential concern, then the individual can schedule a colonoscopy with their doctor. If they choose to use our test, it’s a simple step they take once per year. 

What are the benefits of at-home screenings?

At-home kits are a great fit for people who find accessing health care challenging or for people who find it tough to make time for in-person screenings.

When we can make health screenings more convenient for people, they’re more likely to participate, and that means we’re able to help more employees identify health risks early.

What benefit do at-home screenings offer employers?

When an employer offers at-home biometric screenings, we can deliver aggregated data — at a population level, not on specific employees. That helps employers make key decisions about future wellness programs.

For example, if they see a high prevalence of prediabetes, they might decide to offer lifestyle programs that will help people make the changes necessary to avoid diabetes. That could be everything from a diabetes management program to access to fitness programs or reevaluating what’s sold in their cafeteria.

Helping employees access convenient care can lead to reduced absenteeism and reduced health care costs. It’s also part of creating a culture of health and wellness — something that has become increasingly desired by employees.

What do you anticipate for the future of biometric screenings?

Many people have grown accustomed to the convenience virtual visits and at-home testing have provided, and they may continue to choose their living room over a waiting room. Others will return — or already have returned — to all their usual in-person care. So on an individual level, it’s really about preference.

We also know that some workforces will remain remote or hybrid, regardless of the pandemic. So I believe we’ll see at-home biometric screening kits remain an option offered by many employers.

“At-home kits can extend a culture of wellness beyond the office — adapting to meet the needs of employees, no matter the office structure.”

Debbie Levy
Product Director, Biometrics, Optum

Learn more about how to help your employees to stay up to date on this important screening and others. Contact Optum for more information.

*Biometric Screening Quasi-Experimental Value Study. Well-Being Product Analytic Team. 2019.

Biometric screenings may save $24.25 PMPM for the following year.*