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What Medical Tests are Appropriate for a Corporate Wellness Programme?

Posted by Aaron Keegan on 08-June-2016 16:12:26


This is a question that is often asked by HR professionals.

There are thousands of medical examinations available and it is important to select the most appropriate tests available for any given situation.

In a clinical environment this is typically done by your doctor or GP who will assess the symptoms and order tests based on their professional diagnosis. However, in a corporate wellness programme we are essentially dealing with a healthy population and the tests selected should be appropriate for normal healthy people. There is no point in performing tests just for the sake of it, or perhaps because it has always been done, it must compliment and enhance the programme being offered.

A good corporate wellness programme will use a detailed health risk assessment (HRA) questionnaire to get a clear picture of an individual?s lifestyle and augment this with key biometric markers to determine their risk profile. This profile should be based on our main 9 risk areas.

These can be categorized into:

  • Health Risks
  • Lifestyle Risks

Health Risks are:

  1. Coronory or heart related
  2. Cancer
  3. Diabetes
  4. Osteoporosis or bones

Lifestyle Risks are:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Fitness
  3. Stress and coping
  4. Safety
  5. Weight Management

In relation to blood and laboratory tests, the World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recommend carrying these out unless the disease being screened for:

  • Is a common health problem
  • Is a serious health problem
  • Has effective treatment available
  • Has screening test procedures which are acceptable, safe, accurate and relatively inexpensive
  • Early intervention has been shown to have a positive effect on eventual outcomes.

So we need to be careful when selecting tests that are appropriate for identifying the nine risk factors listed above.

The Irish Chief Medical Officer (CMO) issued a report in 2009 to look at this problem of inappropriate and over testing of participants in health screening programmes. He recognised that "there are difficulties and potential pitfalls around laboratory test screening, such as false positive results and false negative results. These can result in expensive and time consuming follow on tests, and may cause anxiety to individuals. They may also lead to complications if an individual is subsequently seeking life assurance or medical incapacity insurance".

The CMO concluded that "the more tests carried out does not necessarily mean more benefits to the client. Excessive testing can even have adverse outcomes. This is the key message of these guidelines".

The CMO went further to classify tests that were commonly included in programmes into:

  1. Tests which are beneficial
  2. Tests which are possibly beneficial
  3. Tests of no proven benefit
  4. Tests more appropriately provided by doctor or GP

The tests that were identified as being beneficial and most suited to a corporate wellness programme are:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Body mass index
  • Blood pressure
  • Glucose
  • Cholesterol & Triglycerides

Not surprisingly these tests are the primary biometric markers required to complete a profile of the nine health and lifestyle risk factors above.

In addition, these tests adhere to the WHO recommendations and are safe, accurate and relatively inexpensive. With recent innovations on near patient testing these biometric markers can be performed on a finger prick of blood with the results available immediately. There is no unnecessary worry for 1 ? 2 weeks as you wait for the results at a subsequent appointment or for them to be posted out to you.

Another problem encountered when there is excessive testing, is unnecessary follow on appointments with a participants own doctor or GP. Not only is this time consuming and expensive for the individual it can be very frustrating for the GP as they need to calm a patient over a test result they might not have felt was appropriate in the first place.

So, when you are looking at corporate wellness programmes make sure you select a partner that has a comprehensive lifestyle questionnaire in the form of a health risk assessment and compliment it with the biometric markers as recommended by the Irish Chief Medical Officer. Any budget you save on unnecessary or inappropriate testing can be used to enhance the programme with quarterly workshops or incentives.

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