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Workplace Clinics Spread

By December 14, 2010Commentary

The Center for Studying Health System Change within the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report on workplace clinics.   (CSHSC Report) Workplace clinics were very common early in the last century, primarily because many jobs were hazardous and the clinics allowed easy access to care for occupational health needs.  The recent wave of clinic adoptions is driven more by convenience and desire to encourage wellness and healthy lifestyles.  Somewhere between a fifth and a third of large employers are currently estimated to offer an onsite or near site clinic to their employees.  The primary models are a clinic operated by an external vendor, a self-run model and contracting with a local provider for the service.

While most clinics still provide occupational health, more effort is now devoted to primary care and wellness needs.  Many employers see the clinics and their staff as an effective way to engage employees in a face-to-face manner.   The clinics tend to use guideline-driven care and EHRs more frequently than do community based facilities, which improves the continuity of care and provides support for cost savings.    Many doctors and other health professionals enjoy working at onsite facilities because of a better lifestyle and workstyle, one that allows them to spend more time with patients.

Capital outlay is a big challenge, especially for smaller employers, and attracting patients can require work.  Privacy concerns, suspicion of employer motives, perception of poorer quality care and other factors can inhibit employee use.  Participation by corporate leaders, word-of-mouth and financial incentives can drive utilization.  Regulation of the clinics can be a complex web of federal, state and local rules.  Calculating the eventual return on the investment, whether in medical costs saved or broader benefits such as productivity gains, can be difficult to do accurately.  What is clear is that for now employers appear committed to the notion that these clinics will save them money and make employees more satisfied.

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