Worksite Clinics Gain in Popularity

In-house or near-site medical offices could reduce healthcare costs.

More employers are bringing back the company doctor to curb the costs associated with offsite medical visits, according to a report by consulting firm Mercer. More than one-third of large employers surveyed in July 2008 say they sponsor worksite or "near-site" medical clinics, and most respondents say they have been satisfied with their returns on investment.

Advantages of Onsite Health Clinics: By The Numbers

86 percentage of employers who say convenience is their main reason for implementing primary-care clinics

77 percentage of companies that cite better access to preventive care as an important factor

75 percentage who say onsite clinics encourage employees to make better use of health/wellness programs

74 percentage of employers who rate control of overall health spend as an important or very important objective in their decision to sponsor a clinic

Source: Mercer

Onsite clinics have been touted by some employers as a way to save money by reducing the number of visits to emergency rooms and self-referred specialists. The Mercer report, entitled "National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans," is based on 345 employers responding with at least 200 employees, including 100 with clinics in place. Large employers are more likely to offer traditional occupational health clinics, but 14% say they offer clinics that provide primary-care services. An additional 10% say they are considering providing a primary-care clinic in 2009.

Worksite clinics were common in the 1970s and '80s but were easy targets of corporate cost-cutting initiatives and eventually faded away, says Dr. Bruce Hochstadt, who leads Mercer's worksite clinic consulting group. He suggests companies consider outsourcing.

Smaller companies are more likely to share clinic services with another employer. About one in 10 respondents say they share their clinic with another company, and another 13% would consider sharing.

"The growing practice of sharing near-site clinics -- either one employer opening its on-site clinic to nearby companies' employees or neighboring employers banding together to establish a communal facility -- is making it possible for midsized employers, as well as larger employers, to consider this new take on a not-so-new employee healthcare strategy," Hochstadt says.

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