Originally published June 1, 2022 in Occupational Health & Safety.
By Michele D. Smith | Wednesday, June 1, 2022
Routine medical check-ups are an essential part of maintaining optimal health year after year, but many Americans only head to the doctor’s office after a problem arises. A third of U.S. adults reported that they or their family put off medical care because of costs in 2019. That trend has continued to rise over the last two years as many Americans delayed medical care during the Covid-19 pandemic.
When people skip valuable preventive care visits, it could lead to more serious illness in the future and, in turn, higher medical costs when care can no longer be avoided. Chronic conditions like high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer need to be detected and treated as early as possible for the best outcomes.
Today, employers can play an important role in encouraging workers to proactively care for their health and well-being. Onsite health screenings are a valuable tool to ensure workers are routinely receiving preventive care and managing both chronic and acute conditions so they remain in the best health to perform their job. Here are three reasons why employers should offer routine employee health screenings.
Routine Screenings Help Keep Workers at Their Healthiest
Providing health screenings for employees combats reactive health care, giving employees the opportunity to be tested for underlying or chronic conditions and start on a path toward treatment if necessary. There are a variety of screenings employers can offer to workers in the workplace, including but not limited to biometric screenings such as body mass index, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol checks. Such examples of screenings assist with the detection of hypertension, diabetes and risk for heart disease via the Framingham risk score. There are even measures to screen for some cancers in the workplace. The employee’s results are provided within minutes with appropriate counseling on next steps for further testing or treatment from primary physicians.
The greatest benefit of health screenings is early detection. One in 5 Americans living with diabetes don’t know they have the condition, according to the CDC, and on top of that, 8 in 10 U.S. adults with prediabetes don’t know they have it. Screenings provide valuable information that onsite clinicians can use to help employees either prevent chronic conditions or manage them through healthy choices and treatment. For example, if an employee is showing prediabetic blood sugar levels, an onsite clinician can make lifestyle suggestions that the worker can begin implementing that same day. Onsite clinicians can even set up future screenings for employees to monitor levels.
Employees Feel Supported and Cared for by Their Employers
Employees in this pandemic-era want employers to care about their health, and some are even leaving their jobs if they feel like employers aren’t prioritizing their health and wellness.4 Providing health and wellness screenings in the office or on the job site makes employees feel supported and ultimately leads to higher retention rates. For some employees, it could be the push they need to get tested for a condition that runs in their family like heart disease or cancer.
The convenience of completing preventive screenings without leaving the office is a great motivator for employees to take the time to address health concerns they may be having. An employee could think to themselves, “I’ve been super thirsty recently and have been drinking a lot of water—I wonder what that means.” Yet often, they’ll wait for months before seeking medical attention. With a five-minute screening down the hall from their desk, that employee can know that same day if the excess need to hydrate is related to simple thirst or a more serious issue with their blood sugar levels.
Behavioral health is another area of concern that has become increasingly important for both employees and employers during the pandemic. Mental health screenings are a proven tool for detecting signs of depression or burnout in workers. Onsite clinicians can connect employees to mental health resources or discuss ways to cope with anxiety and stress on the spot.
Onsite health screenings provide a level of preventive care that employees typically won’t receive at their primary care office. By catching chronic conditions early on, employees can make lifestyle adjustments like exercising more frequently or changing their diet to improve their health. When employees are at their healthiest, they are more productive at work and spend less time away from the job.
Employers Can Reduce Costs and Increase Employee Satisfaction
Offering health screenings can be advantageous for employers as well and lead to cost savings that benefit a company’s bottom line. According to the CDC, 90 percent of the United States’ $3.8 trillion annual healthcare expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions.5
For most companies, the majority of health insurance dollars goes toward treating the sickest employees. A lot of that care can be prevented if employees are regularly screened for severe illnesses, like heart disease and cancer, and catch it early. Preventive screenings not only save employers money but can save lives as well.
Another key saving for employers is lost time. Enabling employees to be screened while at work means they do not need to take time off for services they can get at the workplace such as blood work. Employers can take it a step further to promote employee engagement and tie screenings into larger health initiatives like a weight loss challenge or mental health seminars.
Health screenings are also extremely helpful for employers that are aware of systemic health issues across the company like a high rate of heart attacks or high obesity numbers due to the nature of the job. They offer another opportunity for employee education as onsite clinicians and advanced practitioners can share ways employees can combat some of the habits that might develop while on the job. For example, truck drivers might not think about how their poor diet on the road combined with the sedentary nature of the job is affecting their overall health. Clinicians can assist in providing realistic, healthier solutions for those employees’ lifestyles.
Supporting Proactive and Preventive Care
In today’s “new normal,” employers that put an emphasis on supporting employee health and well-being will be well-positioned to keep their workforce happy and motivated. Onsite health screenings are an effective way to help employees manage their health without having to lose work time. This level of employer support can boost employee satisfaction and lead to greater levels of productivity and engagement. For employers, this means projects are completed faster, employees spend less time out of the office and teams are better aligned. Health screenings are a key component for creating a culture of care and concern that empowers employees to care for their own health and well-being.