More companies turning to onsite clinics

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Employers including tech giants Apple and Amazon are embracing onsite health clinics as employee use of the facilities keeps rising.

A third of U.S. employers with 5,000 employees or more now offer general medical clinics at the worksite, according to a Mercer and National Association of Worksite Health Centers (NAWHC) survey, a sizable jump from five years ago.

In 2017, 33% of employers provided general medical clinics, up from just 24% in 2012, according to the report. Worksite clinics that focus on occupational health are still slightly more prevalent (38%), but they are not growing as fast as those offering general medical services.

Though onsite clinics are less prevalent among mid-sized employers — 16% of firms with 500-4,999 employees currently provide a general medical clinic — 8% of those companies say they will add one by 2019.

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“More and more employers are finding measurable value in providing high-quality healthcare and patient experience via worksite clinics,” says David Keyt, worksite clinics consulting group leader at Mercer. “Given the high rates of employee satisfaction and utilization, I think we will continue to see growth in offerings of clinics and expansion of the health services that clinics provide.”

Employers with an onsite clinic gave high marks on employee satisfaction (83%) and utilization (78%) of the facilities, according to the report. Nearly two-thirds say they’re satisfied with the clinic’s role in increasing engagement in wellness programs. Although not all employers attempt to measure the clinic’s impact on employee health, the majority of respondents are satisfied with the clinic’s ability to help members control chronic conditions (60%) and reduce modifiable health risks (58%).

In addition, as employers are on the constant lookout to lower healthcare costs, half of survey respondents say they are satisfied with the reduced number of emergency room visits, due to availability of the clinic.

Major employers like Apple, Amazon and Utz Quality Foods have been turning to onsite clinics to help boost employee healthcare engagement and lower costs.

Utz, the national snack foods company with 3,000 employees, this year set up an onsite primary care clinic for employees that offers acute care, physicals, lab work, and long-term health management.

Benefits of its clinic include reduced healthcare costs for Utz and for its employees, improved employee health, and increased employee engagement, retention and satisfaction, the company reports. At its Hanover, Pennsylvania, headquarters, 87% of employees are utilizing the clinic, along with 67% of their family members.

Apple declared plans earlier this year to develop clinics for its employees and their families. An Apple subsidiary, AC Wellness Network, has reportedly hired 40-plus individuals to staff those clinics.

Meanwhile, EBN reported in August that Amazon is in internal discussions to open primary care clinics for its employees in its main headquarters in Seattle. Sources told the outlet that while the plan is in its early stages, the company plans to hire a small number of doctors to start a pilot clinic later this year for a select group of employees, and then expand it to more workers in early 2019. Amazon has roughly 40,000 employees in Seattle.

The growing trend of employers using a worksite medical clinic as a primary care provider, or as a “medical home,” is part of a strategy that leverages accountable care organizations and other network approaches, Mercer notes.

A patient-centered medical home is a healthcare delivery model whereby patients (often very high-risk or chronically ill) have their care coordinated by a primary care physician and a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.

Grocer H-E-B has created two large primary care homes where nearly 7,000 patients see their primary care physicians.

“Employers are becoming more directly involved in shaping the healthcare market and improving their employees’ health,” says Carly Deer, NAWHC board chair and senior benefits leader at Target. “Properly structured onsite medical facilities can create a foundation of primary care and associated services that can assist moving care upstream, which can help improve outcomes, manage cost and increase productivity.”

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