Fingerstick vs. venipuncture: The cost-saving power of biometric screenings

Lowering health care costs remains a top priority for most employers today, and it’s not uncommon to find incentive programs encouraging employees to maintain health and lower risk factors.

While gym memberships and smartwatch discounts are great techniques to engage employees in their health, as I recently discussed in our webinar, Biometrics Value Story: Attitude, Preferences, Impactbiometric screenings may be one of the most effective ways to lower risk factors and improve workforce health, all of which drive down health care costs.

Biometric screenings typically include blood tests that measure glucose levels, height, weight, blood pressure, BMI and cholesterol, which can show whether a person is at risk for long-term diseases like diabetes or heart disease. Testing can be done with either a fingerstick (pricking the finger for a drop of blood) or venipuncture (withdrawing blood from a vein).


Why biometric screenings matter
When people are aware of their current health or risk factors, they are more motivated to take action and preventive steps. Research shows participation in biometric screenings translates to:

  • Fewer emergency room visits
  • Increased participation in telephonic health coaching
  • More appointments with primary care physicians for preventive care.[1]

Biometric screening participants are also more aware of their health risks for chronic diseases — such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure — and as a result, are less likely to progress into those chronic conditions.[2]

With these advantages, biometric screening seems like a big win for both employees and employers. But how should employers facilitate the screening to achieve the most value?


Fingerstick or venipuncture? Putting conventional wisdom to the test
Conventional wisdom tells us that most people would prefer a fingerstick to a venipuncture screening. Plus, the instant results of a fingerstick are more likely to create a “teachable moment” that motivates the employee to make lifestyle changes or seek follow-up care.

But research by Optum actually shows the opposite.  In fact, only 7% of consumers surveyed said they preferred fingerstick, and 83% said they would participate with either method. In addition to driving more action, the same study showed that the majority of consumers view venipunctures as “extremely” or “very” accurate and credible. The online survey was completed by almost 600 respondents ages 18-64 who had health insurance through an employer.

A different Optum study examined 100,000 customers with biometric screening and claims data from 2017 and results showed that employees who participated in a venipuncture screening were more likely to follow up with their physician for additional testing and care. Of the venipuncture participants:

  • 17% more follow-up labs ordered
  • 7% more saw their primary care physicians (vs. fingerstick participants)
  • 9% more enrolled in telephonic health coaching (vs. fingerstick participants).


Removing hurdles to screening
Based on this research, offering venipuncture may be the best way to inspire change and reduce health care costs. But boosting engagement in biometric screening ultimately comes down to making it as easy as possible for employees to participate.

Some of the strategies you can use to engage employees in screening include:

  • Incentives or discounts to participants
  • On-site screening events for ease of participation
  • Off-site options for lab visits, for those who work remotely or who have overnight shifts
  • Physician forms for those who have regular testing with a primary care doctor or specialist
  • At-home testing kits for distributed teams.

Having off-site options may also help provide better biometric data. Employees who need to fast for accurate glucose or cholesterol screenings may be more likely to comply with fasting if they can do it on a schedule that works for them, rather than having to fit to the schedule of your on-site event.

Regardless of how you decide to conduct biometric screenings, your workforce’s health — and your company’s bottom line — will benefit.


Learn more about how you can better understand the health risks of your population and inspire people to take action.


About the Author

JasonLee_HeadShot_finalJason P. Lee, MBA
Senior Director, Optum Biometric Solutions

Jason is the senior director of Optum® Biometric Solutions, and has been managing the program since 2016.

Upon joining Optum in 2007, he was director of product management, managing telephonic wellness coaching, tobacco cessation and wellness publications.

Jason has also served as population health consultant for Optum, advising Fortune 500 companies on their health and wellness programs, including incentive design, communications strategy and measurement.

Jason is a regular presenter for the Optum Culture of Health Institute webinar series and
has served as an advisor to National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and Population Health Alliance (PHA) committees.

Before joining Optum, Jason held positions in product management and marketing at General Electric.

He was a Dean’s Fellow Scholar at the MBA program at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and graduated Summa Cum Laude from the School of Economics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.


[1] Zhu, LI. Biometric screening impact analysis, program cost savings and medical utilizations analyses. 2017.
[2] Steinfeld, D. Comparison of Members with and without Biometric Screening. 2018.

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