What Is a Health Risk Assessment?

What is an health risk assessment?

A health risk assessment, or HRA, sometimes called a health appraisal or health assessment, is a screening tool that helps individuals identify and understand their health risks and monitor health status over time. A health risk assessment includes a questionnaire, an assessment of health status, and personalized feedback about actions that can be taken to reduce risks, maintain health, and prevent disease.

A health risk assessment usually includes questions in the following areas:

  • Demographic characteristics – age, gender
  • Lifestyle behaviors – exercise, eating habits, alcohol and tobacco use
  • Emotional health – mood, stress, life events
  • Physical health – weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels
  • Current and previous health conditions
  • Preventive screenings
  • Readiness to change behaviors to improve health

Medicare health risk assessments may include questions related to the ability to perform daily activities, such as eating, dressing, and bathing. Medicaid health risk assessments may include questions about access to health care, availability of food, and living conditions. Pediatric health risk assessments are also available, with questions appropriate for children aged 6 to 17.

A health risk assessment questionnaire is usually completed online using a PC, tablet, or smartphone. It may also be delivered as a paper form, on the phone, or in person in a clinic or provider’s office. Biometric data may be collected at an employer health fair, a central laboratory, or a provider’s office and combined automatically with questionnaire responses. Feedback to individuals, and sometimes to their healthcare provider, is usually delivered as an online or printed report.

Health risk assessment aggregate data is used by employers and wellness providers to understand the health risks of a population, to measure the impact of an employer-sponsored wellness program, and to improve the use of resources. Organizations providing population health management services such as a health plan or wellness provider often use the health risk assessment results to identify individuals who might benefit from care-management or health-coaching programs.

Health risk assessments are also used as part of the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit to identify issues important to an individual’s health and well-being. They may also be used as part of Medicaid enrollment to identify individuals with health problems that need immediate attention.

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) publishes standards for health appraisals and issues certification to vendors who comply with these standards.

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