The Long-Term Benefits of an Onsite Clinic
March 18, 2019

The Long-Term Benefits of an Onsite Clinic

By: Healthstat

Improved Health is Just the Beginning

When it comes time to weigh the benefits of an onsite clinic, the primary performance indicators for most employers are population health improvements and reduced long-term healthcare spend. The good news is that these two indicators are inversely related: as population health improves, long-term healthcare spend decreases.

But, these two factors are not the only benefits that having an onsite clinic can provide. When looking at the long-term advantages of an onsite clinic, convenience and improved productivity pave the way for year-over-year savings.

The Convenience of Onsite Care

Often, a modern workforce’s lack of access to healthcare is not due to clinic scarcity but lack of time. Research published in the American Journal of Managed Care estimates that an average primary care appointment takes roughly two hours (and of that time, patients spend only 8-12 minutes with their physician).

When an appointment across town may take up to two hours or more of a workday, you’ll often see employees foregoing that appointment to keep their hours. This leaves an employer with an unhealthy workforce that’s burnt out and increasing healthcare spend with worsening health.

Onsite clinics help bridge this gap. Travel time is drastically reduced, which saves on both working hours and employee productivity. And since onsite clinicians are sponsored by an employer, the employer can determine the maximum ratio of clinicians to patients. This allows clinicians to spend as much time as necessary with each patient, ensuring quality care that can treat a workforce effectively.

Reducing Emergency Care Visits

A survey from the National Association of Worksite Health Clinics found that 70% of employers with onsite clinics saw reduced time lost by employees leaving work to see a doctor. 63% saw a reduced use of the emergency room. When you consider that hospital emergency rooms add the highest costs of care to an organization’s healthcare spend, especially for non-emergency conditions, a substantial reduction in visits equals major year-end savings. By providing low or no cost resources and treatment, you’ll both improve the treatment rate of common illnesses and reduce the number of unnecessary emergency room visits.

Additionally, providing ancillary services like dispensaries and occupational therapy can reduce overall healthcare spend as there are no required revenue margins placed on top of these onsite services and products.

Productivity Improvements

Absenteeism is a major problem in today’s workforce. A Forbes study reported that, for the 77 percent of 94,000 employees who missed work because of a chronic condition, the total loss in productivity equaled $84 billion. Another study found that unscheduled absenteeism cost roughly $3,600 annually for an hourly worker and $2,650 for a salaried worker.

Add to this the indirect costs of reduced productivity, understaffing and overtime fatigue, and poor morale from employees who have to do extra work, and you have a compounding issue with poor health at its nexus.

The good news is that an onsite clinic’s convenience and quality of care allows patients to be treated quickly and efficiently, preventing conditions from becoming worse. Additionally, those suffering from chronic conditions can receive timely care without the loss in working hours.

In 2014, employers offering onsite clinic access to 100% of their employees noted an average of fewer than five workdays missed per employee. Compare this to employers without clinics, who reported an employee absence rate of more than 20 days per employee.

Avoiding Presenteeism

Another area of concern for many employers is that of presenteeism. The Journal of Issues in Nursing notes that “presenteeism occurs when employees come to work impaired by illness and are unable to work to their full ability.”

An onsite clinic fills this gap by providing timely care for both chronic and episodic illness. Employees who are not feeling their best can receive timely care minutes from where they work, meaning a quicker return to form and a decrease in presenteeism. This is especially important for employees with chronic conditions, as effective treatment plans require regular appointments that may not be adhered to due to a fear of losing work hours.

Clinicians Encourage Clinic Use

Employers are often frustrated that the healthcare services and programs they offer are not used to the extent they are needed. It’s here that the most surprising effect of onsite clinics can be seen. Employees are more likely to participate, track and sustain a healthier lifestyle when a clinician encourages their success. They better recognize their employer’s efforts to promote a healthy work environment. And, they are more empowered and engaged with the modern tools they can use for their own lifestyle management.

An onsite clinic boosts the all-around attachment of employees to their employer. Done right, the clinic program also acts as a multiplier of the employer’s overall investment in benefits and employee well-being.

The Flexibility of Shared Clinics

Often, employers with smaller workplace populations feel that an onsite clinic program is not for them. In 2017, one-third of US employers with 5,000 or more employees offer worksite clinics, while only 16% of organizations with 500-4,999 employees offered them.

In reality, a clinic for as few as 500 employees can be very successful. The flexibility of a clinic’s programs, hours, and clinician team size can scale in relation to the population they serve, ensuring a healthcare solution with minimal wasted hours and unused services. This can be especially true in rural or low-population areas that may lack a medical clinic entirely but whose population is still small. In addition to the 16% that already offer onsite clinics, another 8% of employers with between 500 and 4,999 employees plan to introduce one in 2019.

But if an onsite clinic is a tough sell, know that shared clinics allow several organizations to work together to increase healthcare access for their employees. Here’s how it works: one to four mid-size companies serve as “anchor” employers that are joined by a number of small employers. This shared model allows each member to maximize their onsite clinic ROI and increase the value offered to their employees by splitting start-up and operating costs.

What’s more, the shared clinic model has had success in both the private and public sectors. For example, a clinic located in a downtown government center can offer convenient access to employees of multiple public entities such as cities, counties, states, and school boards.

Shared clinics are convenient, affordable, and easily accessible, so they remove many of the barriers to healthcare commonly experienced by employees.  And because healthy employees tend to be more productive and have decreased levels of absenteeism, the employer’s bottom line also benefits from the shared clinic model.

The Facts

Employers reported that onsite and near-site clinics helped with productivity and access to care, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Worksite Health Centers. About 95% reported they at least partially met their goals of increasing employee satisfaction and productivity by offering a clinic, according to the survey, which polled 255 employers of all sizes. More than 80% said their clinic improved access to care and 75% saw increased participation in worksite health programs. Nearly seven in 10 surveyed attributed improved health to their clinic and 64% said clinics helped reduce their medical costs.

While improved population health and reduced healthcare spend are the hallmarks of a successful onsite clinic, the convenience and improved productivity from onsite healthcare pays major dividends year-over-year.