Fingerstick vs. Blood Draw: Which Biometric Screening Option is Best for Employers?

With all of the latest wellness technology and platforms emerging in the recent years, companies might start to forget about the root of all workplace wellness programs: biometric screenings. Health screenings serve as the foundation to any wellness program. A company cannot truly get employees on board for wellness without understanding their own health first. Biometric screenings provide a solution for workplace health education – giving employees the convenient opportunity to learn key health numbers without having to take PTO to visit a doctor.

Biometric screenings have gained momentum throughout the recent years – and there’s a reason for its popularity. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey, 53% of large firms and 20% of small firms offering health benefits provide employees the opportunity to complete biometric screenings. Many companies understand that these key health numbers present employees with a baseline to help them learn and incorporate healthy habits.

But can something as simple as a 20-minute biometric screening really impact an employee’s life? Yes, actually. As reported by CareATC, 75% of healthcare costs are attributed to preventable chronic conditions. Diseases such as heart disease and diabetes can be detected early and even prevented altogether. Biometric screenings offer employees the chance to evaluate their risk levels and make lifestyle changes before it’s too late.

If your company is interested in starting regular biometric screenings, it can be difficult to decide which method of screening is right for your company – fingerstick or blood draw? The truth is, both methods provide accurate measurements for cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose. It really comes down to which method is best for both the company and the employees. Let’s break it down:

Fingerstick

Fingersticks tend to be the more popular choice for employee biometric screenings. Overall, this method is more convenient and an easier process. Fingersticks involve a health professional pricking the participant’s finger to collect a small sample of blood. The blood samples are then run through a machine to analyze results.

Some benefits of the fingerstick method include:

  • Cost. Fingersticks are generally cheaper because they require less equipment and processing.
  • Time. This method is faster because blood samples don’t have to be sent to a lab for testing – results can be given to participants in as little as five minutes.
  • Less invasive. Fingersticks tend to be less painful than a traditional venipuncture blood draw.
  • Marketable. This method might be easier for employers to sell to employees due to its easy process and non-invasive nature.
  • Teachable Moment. With results available at the event, employees can be counseled at the health screening. You can provide education and create a teachable moment for you employees directly after they receive their results.

Of one the most common questions we receive regarding fingersticks is the accuracy. The National Cholesterol Educational Program (NCEP) goals allow for +/- 8.9% range for total cholesterol. These goals apply equally to results from a fingerstick or a blood draw/laboratory. With more employee incentives being directly tied to screening results, it’s important for employers to choose a screening provider that follows these accuracy goals. For example, TotalWellness partners with Alere for our point-of-care testing machines.

Venipuncture Blood Draw

A venipuncture blood draw is similar to getting blood drawn at a doctor’s office. This method is more invasive because a needle is used to draw a bigger sample of blood from a vein – usually the vein located at the crook of the participant’s arm. The process is a bit more complex than that of a fingerstick and requires more equipment.

Some benefits of a venipuncture blood draw include:

  • Additional Tests. Since the blood sample is sent to a lab, the employer can opt to add additional test like cotinine, chemistry panel, or thyroid.
  • Reputation. Because blood draws use a more complex process to collect sample and are sent to a large, commercial laboratory, employees might perceive that results from a laboratory are more accurate and may be more likely to trust results.

Although blood draws are also an excellent option for an employee biometric screening, it’s important to be aware of any potential drawbacks. Venipuncture blood draws are more expensive because they require more equipment and send out blood samples to labs. Blood draws are also more invasive, so it might be harder to get employees to participate. Some employees may be hesitant to participant in the screening because they believe the process will be painful and require more downtime than a prick of the finger.

So, which method will be best for employees? It really comes down to what employers and employees are looking to gain from the process. Fingersticks are cost-effective and convenient, while venipuncture blood draws have more options and a trustworthy reputation. Both methods are accurate, provide valuable health information and can be used annually to track progress. One of the best ways to decide between the two options is to ask employees for feedback. Is there one method employees would be more willing to participate in than the other? Are employees looking for diagnostics or a general snapshot of their health?

Regardless of which method your company chooses, providing a biometric screening is one of the best things you can do for the health of your employees. Workplace wellness starts with education. Employees should be aware of their own key health numbers before starting their journey towards a healthier lifestyle.

Remember that biometric screenings are only the first step. What employers choose to do with health screening results is more important than which method is used to get the results. Post-screening engagement involves a holistic and dynamic wellness program filled with objectives to keep employees motivated to stay healthy all year long. Use biometric screening results to provide direction and create a culture of wellness for your employees.

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