Magazine article Workforce Management

On-Site Blood Testing Raises Privacy Issues

Magazine article Workforce Management

On-Site Blood Testing Raises Privacy Issues

Article excerpt

WELLNESS PROGRAMS

Companies are increasingly asking employees to fill out health-risk assessments as the first step toward controlling such chronic and expensive health problems as diabetes, obesity and tobacco addiction. A key to an accurate assessment is a recent checkup, but that's something that most employees skip, relying on a visit that might be several months old.

"That can create a large margin of error," says Lale Iskarpatyoti, health care practice leader in the Philadelphia office of Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

To address this, a growing number of companies are offering an accurate-if potentially controversial-addition to the health-risk assessments: an onsite blood test.

Snap-on, a Kenosha, Wisconsin, manufacturer of power and hand tools, started offering the tests in 2005 and has seen a 50 percent increase in sign-ups for 2006.

At first, Paul Prickett, director of corporate benefits, worried about how his 5,500 U.S. employees would react to the program. Would concerns about their privacy, and the fear that their DNA would be logged in some company database, keep them from participating?

So Prickett made sure, through meetings and mailings, that employees understood what they were being tested for and that Snap-on would never see the results. The blood tests, which are conducted by American Healthways, a Nashville, Tennessee, wellness provider, screen for cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, body fat, liver function and nicotine. Employees fill out their health-risk assessments and get their results within a month so that they can see how their blood work compared with their own assessments. The employer only receives aggregate data about its employees.

Snap-on also offered an incentive: Participants get a $20 monthly discount on health care premiums for agreeing to the full assessment process, including the blood test. But Prickett decided to also offer a $10 monthly discount last year for participants who only took the health-risk assessment. "We wanted to offer that flexibility," he says. But the company found that even those who had only signed up for the assessment were willing to do the blood tests when testing day arrived. For this year, however, Snapon is requiring that employees take both the blood test and the assessment to receive a monthly discount. …

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