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My Personal Experience with a Wellness Screening

Posted by Barbara J. Zabawa | Sep 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

After numerous speaking engagements about the legal aspects of health risk assessments and biometric screenings, I finally had a chance to participate in one myself today.  When I registered for the screening, I was told that I should have seen a privacy notice, as required by the EEOC, and I may have, but I don't remember it.  I was looking for it, however, at today's screening, but it was no where to be found.  When I asked for it, I was told to go online and look at it, which I did.  Luckily, it is available at all times on the vendor's website for review.  My results will be uploaded to the vendor's portal, and according to the privacy policy, my health information will not be shared with others (including my employer), except that some vendors may need the information for program administration purposes.

That is all fine, but I wish the privacy statement included specific language about what, if anything, is done with my de-identified information.  The statement is vague on that point, which makes me question if de-identified information is shared.  If it is not, then the vendor would be well served to include a statement in its privacy policy clearly stating that fact.  If de-identified information is shared, then I would like to know when and how, and have an opportunity to opt-out of such sharing.

I also wish the privacy statement had been available at the screening so that I could have asked these questions.  I guess any employee concerns about privacy are not important enough to address screening day - those concerns should be addressed before you go.  Perhaps that is a legitimate argument, but, I think if a company takes seriously employee privacy concerns, then having someone on site during a health screening day to answer questions would demonstrate a stronger commitment to privacy.  

One other item of concern was the fact that I had no idea about the qualifications of the very nice lady who pricked my finger and took my measurements.  She wore a white coat, but offered no disclosure, in writing or verbally, of her name, company or qualifications.  I noticed a laboratory registration issued by CMS on the registration counter, but no other information about the people actually conducting the screening.  That was disappointing.  A simple brochure at the registration table explaining who was conducting the screening and the types of employees (whether RNs, LPNs, or some other licensed professional) performing the measurements could suffice.  

In sum, it is helpful to know my numbers, and the $150 incentive motivated me to sign up for the screening.  But, I am already doing what I can to lead a healthy life.  I watch what I eat most of the time, exercise as much as I can, get enough sleep, and avoid other unhealthy behaviors.  Knowing my numbers will not result in significant changes in my behavior.  But, I do have this nervous feeling about where my numbers will end up, and unfortunately, the vendors for this wellness screening did not do everything possible to allay those fears at the outset.

About the Author

Barbara J. Zabawa

Barbara is lead author of the book Rule the Rules on Workplace Wellness Programs, published by the American Bar Association. She is a frequent writer and speaker on health and wellness law topics, having presented for national organizations such as WELCOA, National Wellness Institute, HPLive, Healthstat University and HERO. Barbara J. Zabawa is a Clinical Assistant Professor for the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee College of Health Sciences, Department of Health Services Administration where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in health law and compliance, US health care delivery and health professions career development. Barbara also owns the Center for Health and Wellness Law, LLC a law firm dedicated to improving legal access and compliance for the health and wellness industries.  Before graduating with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School, she obtained an MPH degree from the University of Michigan. Immediately prior to starting her own firm, she was Associate General Counsel and HIPAA Privacy Officer for a large health insurer where she advised on Affordable Care Act matters. She was also a shareholder and Health Law Team Leader at a large Wisconsin law firm. Barbara serves health and wellness professionals and organizations across the country as an advocate, a transactional lawyer and a compliance resource. Her commitment to improving health and wellness also shows through her community service. Barbara founded the Wellness Compliance Institute, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve wellness program and activity compliance. She also is a Board Member for the Rogers Memorial Hospital Foundation, a health care organization that specializes in treating mental illness and she chairs the State Bar of Wisconsin Health Law Section. Barbara is licensed to practice law in both Wisconsin and New York.

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