When the first health risk assessment was used in a workplace setting more than 30 years ago, the focus was to accurately predict mortality based on an assessment of an individual’s health behaviors and key physiological characteristics. Early assessments were conducted using a paper form at most once a year, and data was almost exclusively for the benefit of employers and population health experts.

We’ve come a long way since then.

StayWell recently released a new eBook “Health assessment as a health improvement tool,” which focuses on how the health assessment has evolved over the years, adding value to the science of population health management at every turn. In addition to the following highlights, the eBook also offers tips for safe and effective use of health assessment and how to optimize your use of health assessment data for employers and individual participants.

From mortality predictions to health awareness and improvement
StayWell developed one of the first health assessment tools and, likewise, was the first health management company to use data from the health assessment to identify individuals for specific health improvement opportunities. Our first health assessment was a behavior-based tool addressing eleven modifiable health behaviors: alcohol use, back care, blood pressure, cholesterol, driving, nutrition, physical activity, stress, tobacco use, weight, and well-being.

While our current health assessment tool still focuses on specific health behaviors, the end game is about preventing illness rather than predicting death. More specifically, health assessment data is used to gauge a person’s “risk level” for certain chronic conditions that can negatively impact a person’s quality of life, their ability to achieve peak performance on the job, and their potential health care costs. In this sense, health assessment has become more actionable—both for employers and individuals.

This is a primary and essential role because numerous research studies and case studies have shown health assessment data is reliable and accurate indicator of future health care costs.

A more nimble and engaging assessment
Over the years, the process of evaluating health has changed dramatically. The lengthy paper assessment forms that required weeks for tabulation, evaluation of data and printing and mailing of corporate and individual health scores have been replaced by easy-to-use, online assessment tools that automatically integrate data into customized reports. Likewise, rather than wait to receive a written report showing health status, individuals now receive an on-the-spot, personalized health score.

Not only has the process of completing the assessment and receiving data become more engaging, but the manner in which the data is presented is more personalized and tailored to an individual’s opportunity for change. For example, offering a personal review of assessment results with a health care professional during an onsite health screening or placing an outbound call to review health assessment results and talk about health improvement opportunities, the health assessment creates a teachable moment that can trigger participation in any wellness program.

Technology drives integration and year-round awareness
The proliferation of mobile devices, applications and monitoring devices is creating a world where people can be continually connected to resources that support their personal and professional interests—including health improvement. And health management programs are increasingly finding ways to integrate those devices and the data they produce in health assessment and individual wellness program experience.

Although the list of potential data integration points will continue to increase exponentially in the coming years, health management providers are currently exploring how to effectively and safely integrate data from mobile apps (like diet and fitness programs), wireless monitoring devices (i.e., activity trackers, blood pressure monitors, scales and metabolic measures), electronic health records, electronic medical records, personal health records, health and disability claims and lab test results into the health assessment for an increasingly comprehensive view of an individual’s health.

The ultimate outcome from this level of integration is an assessment environment where individuals can self-report their health data (such as weight, blood pressure, eating habits and exercise) throughout the year, producing a more comprehensive, ongoing view of their health and daily lifestyle habits. In this way, technology will strengthen the connection between the health assessment and the broader workplace health management program.

To learn more about health assessment as a tool to improve the health of your population contact us at engage@staywell.com.