Are healthcare costs propelling your budget to the edge of a cliff – at the same time your employees’ health is losing ground? That’s the crisis motivating employers in record numbers to open a healthcare clinic of their own.
Consider this: Double the number of organizations with 500+ employees offered an onsite clinic from 2009 to 2015. That number is projected to double again by 2020, when one in three employers (500+) will have their own onsite clinic. Nearsite and shared clinics, as well as telemedicine, expand options even further. They let employers offer greater breadth of services, open to more dispersed employees.
If the possibilities sound daunting, you’re not alone. Two-thirds of employers with clinics rely on outside vendors. So, how do you choose the vendor that’s best for your organization? Start by asking these 3 questions.
1. Is now the right time?
Opening a clinic is a big project with a lot of moving parts. But it’s also the single best thing you can do to have a positive impact on both employee health and your bottom line. So, don’t hold off getting started because you think the expectations of your time – or control of the timeline – will get out of hand.
If you have the need to improve employee health, control costs and provide a great benefit, the right vendor will get you to your best solution. And they’ll do it with a staged approach that works for you. Onsite, nearsite or shared? Physicians or nurse practitioners? Co-pays or free services? Medication dispensaries, X-ray, physical therapy? An experienced vendor will work with your advisors and decision makers to plan your approach.
Your vendor can also help you determine what you will need to be ready. They’ll have turnkey solutions that let you get started with nothing more than passion for the project. But they should also be flexible, creative and experienced enough to customize their proven solutions to fit your needs.
Remember that to be successful, your vendor must build a program aligned to the goals that have buy-in from your key stakeholders. Your vendor will need to fulfill those goals, and be able to demonstrate that they’ve been accomplished. Otherwise, even the best clinic won’t be sustainable. It’s crucial for your clinic to deliver value. It’s indispensable for your clinic to deliver the value that matters most to your decision makers.
What to look for in a vendor
To get started on right foot, make sure your vendor has a solid track record for opening clinics on time and within budget. Your clinic implementation sets the tone for the perception of clinic performance. Delays and chaos are not soon forgotten, while solid project management inspires confidence and trust. That trust, in turn, makes the clinic experience smoother for everyone once the doors open. Ask your vendor how they involve employees during implementation so they are informed and excited to use the clinic.
In summary – you don’t need to have a lot to get started with the right vendor. That vendor needs to have a lot to get started successfully with you. Evaluate your vendor for:
- the ability to give great advice based on breadth and depth of experience
- the flexibility to conform that advice to your needs, and
- the reliability to manage your timeline, however short or long it may be.
2. What are we trying to change?
Embrace the fact that the different stakeholders in your project have different priorities. The good news is that this isn’t a zero-sum game. Just the opposite! Fulfilling one group’s priorities most often has a positive impact on the others. Look at some of the common goals below and consider how they complement each other.
- Build a culture of health
- Promote prevention, early intervention and treatment adherence
- Avoid catastrophic events like heart attack and stroke
- Close gaps in care
- Improve chronic condition management
- Reduce healthcare costs
- Avoid unnecessary ER and Urgent Care visits
- Reduce absenteeism
- Attract, satisfy and retain employees
- Allocate resources wisely based on the needs of your population
- Respect employee self-determination
Some of these goals lend themselves more easily to direct measurement, and some are measured indirectly. Your vendor should tell you at the outset how they will help to achieve stakeholder buy-in and how success will be demonstrated. Will it be return on investment, value on investment, customized metrics? Does the vendor have the capability to report on those measurements?
What to look for in a vendor
Your onsite clinic can become a pivotal element of your overall plan design. Done right, your clinic will become a force multiplier. Choose a vendor that knows how to act as a hub for your employees to access the range of resources available to them. This hands-on guidance can streamline services, reduce waste and boost employee loyalty. Your clinic acts as the central station, its clinicians the navigators.
At the same time, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse – pun intended. Ask your vendor about the processes it has in place to understand and address the evolving needs of your employee population. Your vendor should be actively involved in ongoing program design and employee outreach. Most importantly, they should recruit and train providers who can be effective in engaging patients. Learn about the technology and protocols your vendor uses to attract and empower patients.
In summary – every clinic program needs to be able to show it produces good health outcomes, satisfied patients and financial value. Further evaluate your vendor for:
- Its focus on your key stakeholder priorities
- The integration of technology and training to support patient engagement
- Ongoing protocols for planning, implementing and evaluating program design
3. How do I know my vendor will do what they say?
Crucial aspects of an employer-sponsored clinic program can be validated by highly respected independent agencies. Here are some accreditations to look for:
- AAAHC: The Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care provides an external, independent review of a health care delivery organization against nationally-accepted standards and its own policies, procedures, processes and outcomes. In other words: Is the organization delivering safe, high-quality patient care in the way that it says it will? AAAHC is a mark of quality medical care.
- NCQA: The National Committee for Quality Assurance uses industry-leading, evidence-based standards to assess key areas of health promotion. It looks at how wellness programs are implemented in the workplace, how services such as coaching can empower participants to boost their health and how private health information is protected. NCQA is a mark of quality wellness programming. When combined with performance reporting, it validates that a vendor consistently follows evidence-based processes and demonstrates health improvements.
- SSAE-18 Soc 2 Type II: Certification in this auditing standard for service organizations demonstrates current and historic data security controls. It is a mark of data safety and the integrity of an organization’s processes.
What to look for in a vendor
Like a true partner, a confident vendor offering their best advice to you will have skin in the game. Find out what performance guarantees they offer, and whether they can be customized. Guarantees are typically based on financial savings, health improvement, utilization and employee satisfaction.
Also, be certain that your must-haves are “baked in” to your vendor’s processes. For example, you may identify that behavior change is key to health improvement for your employees. Does your vendor have a formal program to train all clinicians in behavior change coaching? Are behavior-change questions and messaging built into the clinician workflow, guided by the EMR system?
Data integration and data sharing are key for the success of many initiatives. Your vendor should be able to demonstrate success in working with your own or similar insurance plans.
Finally, when it’s all boiled down, the first, best and last test for a clinic partner may be to ask one simple question. How do you follow the Platinum Rule – to treat others as they want to be treated. It’s both the tallest order in healthcare, and the very least we should deliver.