The concept of on-site health care clinics has been around for decades. Larger companies, especially those at manufacturing plants, often had clinics where injured employees could visit a physician who was employed by the company. Generally, the focus was on occupational health.
Today, on-site clinics are evolving, with a broader emphasis on wellness along with the treatment of injuries and illnesses.
“The goal of on-site clinics is to make quality care convenient and accessible to employees,” said David M. Weir, the president of UPMC Work Partners, which is part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division. “Ideally, an on-site clinic should be able to make a significant contribution to the total health of a company’s employees.”
Smart Business spoke with Weir about the changing nature of on-site clinics and their emerging presence in the workplace.
Why are on-site clinics growing in popularity?
The popularity increases as employers see the advantages of having health care services in the workplace, including accessible quality care, improved workplace productivity, increased employee engagement in chronic care and wellness, enhanced benefit coordination, and lower health care costs. The loss of productivity due to employees leaving the worksite is estimated to be seven times the actual medical costs.
Moreover, the concept simply makes sense. Healthy employees are more productive employees. More productive employees drive stronger organizational performance.
What makes on-site clinics so attractive to employers?
Employers are looking for a solution to rising medical costs, as well as ways to improve the health and productivity of their employees. More and more, employers are realizing that their employee’s health affects workplace absences, workers compensation, nonoccupational disabilities and presenteeism.
On-site services can be designed to be a resource for a company’s employee health care needs. According to a national survey in 2009, more than one-fourth of large employers offer an on-site or near-site medical clinic for occupational health services; 11 percent for primary care services. There have also been studies done that show that return on investment has been estimated as ranging from 3-to-1 to 5-to-1 for every dollar invested.
What services should on-site clinics offer to employees?
Among those that should be included in a suite of services are nonoccupational and occupational medical care, employee health, chronic care management, wellness and employee assistance programs. Because of the many aspects of this type of operation, it is critical to have metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the clinic.
If properly designed, on-site clinics should be viewed as an extension of an employee’s primary care physician’s office, not care in lieu of a primary physician. There should be no fragmenting of an employee’s medical records, if possible.
How do on-site clinics make sense for employees and employees’ health?
On-site clinics are convenient, which means they can increase the likelihood of employees seeing a health care provider for their medical needs. Plus, clinics are educational hubs for employees to learn more about medical services covered under the company’s health plan. As a result, minor illnesses are more likely to be evaluated, which decreases the chance the issue would escalate into something serious and more costly. An employer’s expenses decline as there is no need for an emergency room visit. On-site clinics can encourage employees to receive timely and appropriate preventive care, flu shots, physicals, etc., while promoting wellness and healthy lifestyles. Our experience is that on-site clinics are able to engage five times the number of employees in chronic care management and wellness programs. Also, staff can make referrals to a health coach or an EAP service when appropriate.
What options do employers have for establishing on-site clinics?
Basically, employers can outsource the operation to a third party specializing in clinic operations, or they have health care professionals on the company payroll. In most cases, because a health care operation is highly specialized and not the core competency of the company, the better option is to outsource to a quality third party that emphasizes best practices.
What should employees look for in an on-site clinic provider?
Go with a provider that has a solid reputation for delivering quality medical services, has proven experience and can provide a full complement of health and wellness services.
Are on-site clinics right for all employers?
Ideally, they work best with employer groups of 1,000 employees or more. But because on-site clinics have had a good track record for holding down costs, smaller employers are also considering them. Advances in area telemedicine techniques make the option more financially feasible to smaller employer groups. Employers need to understand that time away from work costs a company seven times as much as the actual medical cost for services rendered.
Is there a reason that employees would be reluctant to utilize on-site clinics?
If a third party is used to run the clinic, it can lessen concerns about confidentiality issues that employees may have concerning their health information and their employer. Designing lower co-pays, solid customer service and convenience should lend itself to employee confidence in using the facility.
David M. Weir is the president of UPMC Work Partners, which is part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division. Reach him at (412) 454-8720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.