Is the workplace health clinic the new health care fix?
By Kathryn Mayer
Is a medical clinic in a workplace really the best thing considered?
NPR seems to think so.
National Public Radio celebrated the opening of its new onsite wellness center in cooperation with its longtime insurer Cigna this week. Located within NPR’s new headquarters in Washington, D.C., and managed by Cigna, the employee wellness center is a cornerstone of NPR’s self-described “focus on creating a healthy work environment” for its DC-based staff of approximately 800.
The center is available to eligible full-time and part-time NPR staff with no co-pay or out-of-pocket expense. The center is staffed by a nurse practitioner and medical assistant, open for 24 hours each week and accepts both walk-ins and scheduled appointments.
“We looked at our new headquarters as an opportunity to advance employee health and wellness initiatives,” said Jeff Perkins, NPR’s chief people officer. “Our wellness center is going to improve our staff’s overall health, save our employees time and money, and increase workplace productivity — all keys to improving work-life integration.”
The nonprofit news outlet is confident the center will be widely used by its employees: Besides available preventive care services, such as routine physical exams and flu shots, NPR says its journalists preparing to go on assignment overseas will be able to get the required immunizations they need conveniently onsite before going abroad.
The center also will offer chronic condition coaching to help employees manage ailments such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes, as well as health management classes, including workshops for weight loss and smoking cessation.
But aside from embracing healthy behaviors, NPR hopes the site will save some serious cash.
Cigna claims NPR could shave $390,000 off its insurance costs over the next three years due to claims cost reduction, avoiding lost work time and generic drug conversion.
The costs will translate into savings for employees, too: NPR estimates that staff overall could expect to experience a 25 percent decrease in their primary care costs, a 32 percent reduction in specialist visits and a 38 percent reduction in emergency room visits.
Worksite clinics are generally offered by larger employers, and it’s a trend that’s catching on as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act goes into effect. Many industry insiders say as more people get insurance coverage under PPACA, doctors will struggle to fit in patients and consumers will have to deal with longer wait times for primary care physicians. On-site medical clinics could be a way to get people quick and easy access to care.
It’s a trend that many are watching. Earlier this year, Walgreens announced the opening of what it called one of the country’s most comprehensive worksite health centers at BMW Manufacturing’s facility in Spartanburg, S.C. The 25,000-square foot facility, managed by Walgreens Employer Solutions Group, offers BMW employees, their dependents and eligible retirees a wide range of health services, including primary and occupational care.
Annmarie Higgins, vice president of human resources for BMW Manufacturing, said in January that the automaker "wants to bring quality health care to associates and their families in a cost-effective and efficient manner."
"We want to provide individuals greater opportunity to reach and maintain optimal health through education, prevention, early detection and management of existing health conditions," Higgins said.
According to consulting firm Mercer, more large and medium-sized employers are thinking about opening on-site clinics for their employees.
In a recent Mercer survey of 131 companies with 500 or more employees, 15 percent said they had an on-site primary-care clinic and another 11 percent said they were considering setting one up in the next two years. Among employers with 5,000 or more workers, 15 percent said they intended to set one up.
Employers surveyed rated reduced overall health spending as their primary motivation.
Employees can see a doctor on their way into work or on their lunch hour without losing time on the job and without having to travel anywhere. Plus, it creates a culture of wellness that many employers are prioritizing.
“Creating a culture of health in the workplace starts with senior leadership commitment to the health and well-being of employees,” Julia Huggins, president and general manager for Cigna in the MidAtlantic, said in a statement. “Organizations like NPR understand helping employees maintain or achieve their best health is critical to their organization’s success.”
Originally published on BenefitsPro.com