Employers plan to expand use of onsite health centers

Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) large U.S. employers with onsite health facilities plan to add new centers over the next two years, according to recent research from Towers Watson. The 2015 Employer-Sponsored Health Care Centers Survey found these employers to be confident that onsite or near-site health centers improve the health and productivity of their employees.

A majority of the 120 responding employers that already have onsite or near-site health facilities, or are planning to implement them, share these objectives for their centers: increase productivity (75 percent), reduce health care costs (74 percent), and improve convenient employee access to health care services (66 percent). Nearly all centers also offer a similar range of primary care services. Immunizations (99 percent), care for acute conditions such as upper respiratory and urinary tract infections (99 percent), and blood draws (95 percent) top the list.

“For employers with a critical mass of employees in one or more locations, onsite and near-site health centers can be an integral component of a high-performance health care program,” said Dr. Bruce Hochstadt, senior consultant at Towers Watson. “Encouraged by their experience to date, many employers with these centers believe providing convenient access to health services increases employee productivity by reducing time away from work. What’s more, many are ready to increase their investment.”

Beyond primary care medical services. By 2018, two-thirds of survey respondents (66 percent) expect to expand or enhance the already broad services they offer. In addition, employers expect their centers to play an even greater role—above and beyond their current use—in the management and coordination of employee wellness. Wellness programs are already available at 86 percent of centers, and lifestyle coaching to promote and reinforce behavior changes is currently offered at 63 percent.

Employers also have been expanding the scope of their onsite and near-site health centers beyond primary care. Half of employer-sponsored health centers now offer some type of pharmacy services, a considerable increase from 38 percent in 2012. “Pharmacy services interest employers because they offer convenient access to prescription drugs for employees, encourage medication compliance and help decrease overall medical and pharmacy spend,” said Dr. Allan Khoury, senior consultant at Towers Watson.

Another interesting finding is the growth in telemedicine. More than one-third (35 percent) offer telemedicine services, with another 12 percent planning to in the next two years. “Telemedicine and onsite health centers are perfect complements,” adds Khoury. “They help employers make it easy for employees and other eligible members to see a doctor and get informed medical expertise—even on evenings and weekends. They also support an overall employer strategy of keeping workers productive and eliminating wasteful costs such as unnecessary emergency room visits.”

Outsourcing to vendors is the most popular option (64 percent) for managing staffing and services at the health centers. Roughly one-quarter of survey respondents (23 percent) report that they run the centers themselves, and 18 percent use local or regional provider groups or health systems.

More employers are measuring ROI. Given cost control pressures, more employers are now measuring their centers’ ROI. Three in four (75 percent) employers with onsite health centers calculate their ROI, up significantly from 47 percent in 2012. However, just 12 percent of employers have the analysis performed by an independent third party; 33 percent use their vendors, and 30 percent rely on internal staff analysis.

Towers Watson’s experience demonstrates that employer-sponsored health centers’ ROI is highly dependent upon employee utilization and staffing levels. For example, clinics increase preventive care while decreasing emergency department and inpatient use. Members with higher health risk scores are more likely to use the employer-sponsored health center, and using the center to refer them to a preferred network of specialists can lead to substantial cost savings.

For more information, visit http://www.towerswatson.com.

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