Health Risk Assessment vs. Health Risk Appraisal

So you want to determine your employee population's health risk. Do you use a health risk assessment or a health risk appraisal? Are they the same or different? Read on to find out. 

This article was originally published on the WellSource website.

Have you ever sat in a meeting where acronyms are flying around like pollen during allergy season? If you work in health and wellness, it’s probably Every. Single. Meeting.

Acronyms are everywhere. And just because you’re familiar with an acronym, doesn’t mean your definition has a universal meaning.

For example, HRA has more than one meaning in population health:

What is an HRA and how do you use it?

Here’s how three primary markets use a wellness HRA.

1. Commercial health plans

About 56 percent of people covered by health insurance in the United States enroll in a plan through their employer, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

And it’s no secret that it’s in the best interest of both the health plan and the employer to control healthcare costs. 

But how do you do that? Moda Health uses a health risk assessment. It’s one tool Moda Health offers as part of its Momentum program to serve its commercial line of business.

It’s designed to help members navigate the healthcare system, assess health risks, and learn to make behavior changes to improve health.

“Through Momentum, members can take a health assessment, see their ‘health age,’ research health topics, track symptoms, and medications, and create a family health record,” says Moda Health Vice President of Communications Jonathan Nicholas. “Bringing Momentum to our members is just one more way we help them find a way to better health.”

2. Individual health plans

Some states that provide individual health plans for Medicaid and Medicare encourage members to complete a health risk assessment to identify health risks, discuss the results with their doctor, and create an action plan to improve.

For example, the Healthy Michigan Plan developed by the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services uses a health risk assessment this way:

“Beneficiaries work in collaboration with their healthcare provider to complete a standardized health risk assessment and identify behavior goals,” according to the program guidelines. “Beneficiaries are expected to remain actively engaged in their health by establishing at least one healthy behaviors goal each year…”

The Annual Wellness Visit required by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services includes a health risk assessment.  

3. Wellness companies

What if you’re a wellness company or consultant that connects employer groups, commercial and individual health plans, and other health professionals with wellness tools, programming, and services?

That’s where the definition of HRA appears to be referred to more often as both a health risk assessment and a health risk appraisal, says Bravo Wellness Product Manager Andy Carr.

“There may be more of a noted difference in the more research and academic focused population,” says Carr. “But I think your typical corporate buyer sees those as interchangeable.”

Even when responding to RFPs for wellness programming and services, Carr says Bravo Wellness uses the terms “health risk assessment” and “health risk appraisal” similarly.

And Bravo isn’t the only wellness company that uses the two terms in similar ways. Here’s another example:

Provant Health refers to the terms interchangeably on their website. And like many other wellness organizations, sometimes simply refers to the HRA as a health assessment.

Health risk assessment vs. health risk appraisal?

Our sales and legal departments thought of “health risk appraisal” as a more old-fashioned term, more commonly used in older populations. But Dr. Brittany U. Carter, Wellsource Director of Health & Research, confirms that "the terms health risk assessment and health risk appraisal can be used interchangeably as they are collecting and measuring the same things—lifestyle factors and health risks.” To sum it up, health risk assessments and health risk appraisals are essentially the same thing.

What about you? Does your organization use the term health risk assessment or health risk appraisal? Vote in our poll and leave us a comment below. Whatever you call it, an HRA is an important tool for wellness professionals, health plans, and wellness companies alike. Check out Choosing the best Health Risk Assessment to learn more.

HRA's are also complimentary to health coaching. Discover our Introductory Guide to Employee Health Coaching to learn how they can be used together.