Published on November 29, 2014

Hospitals boost population health by bringing care to the workplace

By Moody Chisholm


As healthcare costs continue to rise and affect business profit margins, companies are seeking solutions to better control and manage healthcare costs for their employees.

Some companies build on-site clinics to help with on-the-job employee health issues, delivering healthcare that's more reactive than preventive. Such clinics are costly to build and expensive to operate and maintain.

Our hospital system, St. Vincent's HealthCare, is an integral part of the Northeast Florida community, an area known for its healthcare collaboration between businesses and hospitals. We work closely with the community to develop innovative solutions for employer healthcare needs.

Recognizing how the healthcare-delivery model in the U.S. is constantly evolving, we took the initiative to be the first local provider of on-site workplace medical clinics. In June, we launched our program, HealthWorks, which allows companies to offer care to their employees at the workplace. A clinic is set up on the company's campus, either in a space allocated within the company's building or via our mobile-clinic bus available through regular visits.

This customizable healthcare solution meets the routine health needs of company employees in a convenient, cost-effective manner. The company pays an hourly rate for our on-site medical services and employees do not pay any out-of-pocket costs.

Many company employees do not regularly have wellness checkups or are leery of doctors and hospitals. Our on-site clinics provide routine services such as physical exams, diagnosis and treatment for day-to-day illnesses, prescriptions and health screenings, as well as one-on-one chronic-care management for workers with ongoing medical issues.

HealthWorks takes traditional worksite wellness programs a step further by providing early detection and condition coaching for those employees who need it, conveniently taking place at the employee's worksite by a healthcare professional. The program and the on-site nurse practitioners are backed by our health system, leading to easy and fast follow-up and referrals.

We support companies that want employees to take an active part in making their lives healthier, developing a mindset of “health maintenance, not health reaction” to detect health problems early. Instead of employees not visiting doctors for regular well checks, they can visit the clinic during their workday at their workplace.

Employees also get an early diagnosis and management of chronic diseases, meaning fewer visits to the emergency room and an overall better understanding of their personal health risks. This, in turn, helps the company better control its healthcare costs and keeps employees healthier, reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity.

Another benefit is that an on-site clinic allows employees to have longer appointments with the healthcare practitioner and a greater opportunity to understand each relevant health risk. Employees establish trusting relationships with the HealthWorks clinician that can ultimately improve their lifetime healthcare experience.

This program was designed as a “customizable” solution that is affordable for a business. The company can set the hours of operation that are most convenient, leading to decreased medical costs. More importantly, having the program demonstrates to employees that the company is transparent and cares about their health and overall wellness, improving employee morale and company satisfaction.

The initial results of HealthWorks are encouraging, with more than 120 employee visits to the on-site clinic for one local company. Some employee participants have been diagnosed with chronic healthcare problems, such as diabetes or hypertension, and are now receiving the right treatment plan and are returning for follow-up appointments at the clinic. The company also is considering offering the HealthWorks' services to employees' dependents for better preventive care.

Other hospitals and healthcare systems could replicate this healthcare-model delivery, in which employers pay an hourly rate for staff and cover supply costs of any services. We do not run services through employers' health plan, which positively impacts utilization. As a result, we hope to see reduced rates at renewal. In addition, the clinics do not need to be large—a small conference room or office can be retrofitted. If space is available, the necessary medical equipment, furniture and startup supplies are as low as $6,000 to $8,000.

We view the on-site clinics as a one-stop shop for population-health management and a vital, proactive center for ongoing employee health. It is a potential solution for companies seeking to improve and manage the health of its employees while managing the growing costs related to healthcare.

http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20141129/MAGAZINE/311299978/hospitals-boost-population-health-by-bringing-care-to-the-workplace