Biometric screening nudges employee toward health

Diabetes prevention program spurs change
Feb. 3, 2016

A couple of weeks after he completed last year’s biometric screening at University of Colorado Hospital, Michael Cain got an unexpected phone call.

A representative from Anthem, the administrator of UCHealth’s Primary CU Health Plan, was on the line, informing Cain, a system architect with UCHealth’s Imaging Technology team, about a diabetes prevention program. The representative indicated that Anthem would pay for the 12-month program if he was interested.

Cain had noticed the screening results showed that his blood sugar levels were a little high. His father was diabetic. He told the Anthem representative he would think about it; soon after he agreed “enthusiastically” to join the program.

“In the back of my mind I was thinking we are eventually visited by all of our parents’ maladies,” he said.
Michael Cain uses his smartphone to track his diet and activity levels as part of his diabetes prevention program.

Tide turns

Several months later, Cain is glad he made the decision. Through the program, he received instructional material to help him maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen. He corresponds regularly with an assigned dietitian, a triathlete who gives him support and suggestions for staying on track.

“She’s been totally positive,” he says. “She has never once said a question is stupid. Her feedback is, ‘You’ve made some good choices. Let’s see if we can extend that.’ I’d recommend the program to anyone who is serious about getting healthier.”

It’s easy to see why. Since he started the program, Cain has dropped 20 pounds and lowered his blood sugar and cholesterol levels. His resting heart is 68 beats per minute – uncharted territory.

“I’ve never been under 80,” he says.

No nonsense

The program is straightforward and practical. Cain records everything he eats and drinks as well as his activity each day and enters the information on his phone. He can also post it on the program’s website. His dietitian reviews the data and offers feedback, resources, and recipes – like inexpensive pumpkin squares that are easy to make, flavorful, and just 50 guilt-free calories. Before taking trips, like a recent one to St. Louis to see his son, he packs healthy snacks such as turkey jerky, nuts, and vegetables. That saves him from diet-busting restaurant stops.

Granddaughter Collins Rae RoweCain says a typical dinner once was a double Whopper and a six-pack. Today it’s healthy substitutes, like a spinach burger, a “mighty tasty” item he learned to make and keeps handy in the freezer. He stocks the refrigerator crisper with broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower.

“I’m cooking for myself after spending a lot of my life eating from a bag,” Cain said.

His dietitian provides no shortage of good advice, but Cain emphasizes that success rests on the individual taking responsibility for his or her own choices.

“There is nothing new about any of this,” he said. “I haven’t learned anything about staying healthy that I didn’t know before. The key is being accountable for the way I eat.”

Granddaughter Collins Rae Rowe bolsters Cain’s motivation to take care of himself.
It’s not easy. Cain said he’s learned how hard it is to stick to a regular exercise routine, for example. But his most powerful motivation comes neither from himself nor his coach, but rather from a small bundle of energy who can’t yet offer him any verbal advice – his baby granddaughter, Collins Rae Rowe.

“I’m now accountable to her for living a really long time,” he wrote in an email shortly after spending a day alone with Collins.

With that force driving him, a double Whopper doesn’t stand a chance.

Check-up Time Again

UCHealth will once again offer free biometric screenings for all employees who are members of the Primary CU Health Plan. Spouses of plan members are also eligible.

More details:

  • Complete your biometric screening to earn the wellness premium discount ($10/pay period, $240 annually).
  • The screening is a 15-minute time investment that yields critical information about your risk for certain diseases and potential medical conditions. With the information, you can take preventive measures and make healthy changes.
  • At the screening, members will be examined for height, weight, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. The following tests will also be provided:
    • Full lipid panel (cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides)
    • Blood glucose
    • Optional lab tests, including HbA1c, PSA, TSH, and vitamin D screening, will be available for purchase.
  • This year, employees only need to complete the biometric screening; there is no online Personal Health Assessment (PHA) requirement to receive the savings. According to UCHealth’s Human Resources (HR) team, a survey last spring of CU Health Plan participants showed that members wanted a more user-friendly PHA program that would provide them with more meaningful information. In response, CU Health Plan is searching for a new product to introduce next year, HR representatives say.

Free on-site screenings will be available from Feb. 22 through April 8. CU Health Plan participants can click here to sign up for the screenings. Bring your medical CU Health Plan ID card to your appointment. Results from the blood draw are mailed to the address you provide approximately three weeks after the screening.

You are encouraged to share your results with your primary care physician. If you attend one of the CU Health Plan screenings, your results will not be in Epic unless you provide them to your PCP.

If you’re not a current CU Health Plan participant, but are benefit eligible, contact Employee Health to schedule an appointment by Friday, April 8:

  • Northern Colorado: (970) 495-8229
  • Metro Denver: (720) 848-6849
  • Colorado Springs: (719) 365-5560

About the author

Tyler Smith has been a health care writer, with a focus on hospitals, since 1996. He served as a writer and editor for the Marketing and Communications team at University of Colorado Hospital and UCHealth from 2007 to 2017. More recently, he has reported for and contributed stories to the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Colorado School of Public Health and the Colorado Bioscience Association.