Companies Create Their Own Health Clinics
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Okay, next, as healthcare costs continue to rise, a lot of companies are looking for ways to help employees with healthcare and some of the nation's largest employers now are offering more than insurance. They're adding onsite health clinics.
Brad Linder reports.
BRAD LINDER: When Jean Woodington has a cold or needs a prescription filled, she can take half a day off of work to visit her doctor in the Philadelphia suburbs. Or she could come to her employer's health clinic.
Woodington works at Cigna, a national health insurance provider based in Philadelphia.
Ms. JEAN WOODINGTON (Cigna): I've also had my flu shot here. I've come in for various check-ups. I had a skin rash that was bothering me a lot, and I came in and Vicky took a look at that. It was, you know, it's just really a very, very convenient and gives you a little piece of mind when you're at work that if something happens, there's someone here that can assist you.
LINDER: Cigna's health clinic offers most of the same services available in the doctor's office. Employees have access to everything from blood tests to physical therapy. Nurse practitioner Vicky Dixon runs the clinic. As she checked my blood pressure this morning, she explained some of the benefits of having a health clinic on site.
Ms. VICKY DIXON (Nurse Practitioner): Convenience is a huge factor. We can see a patient, an employee, in and out within about 15 minutes because we are right onsite. There's very minimal waiting. So one of our goals is to keep our employees productive. It's a walk-in clinic. If we're backed up, employees can go back to their desk and we'll give them a call and they can come down and be seen in a very timely manner.
LINDER: Dixon says Cigna saved more than $1.4 million last year in employee work time. And that's not counting savings associated with early detection of health problems and fewer insurance claims filed with outside doctors.
A growing number of companies including Pepsi, General Motors and Toyota are turning to in-house clinics like Cigna's.
Helen Darling is president of the nonprofit National Business Group on Health. She says companies have operated on site health centers in the past, but she says the practice has only become widespread in the past few years.
Ms. HELEN DARLING (National Business Group on Health): There were companies back in the '70s when corporations spent money on things like very fancy buildings and bought art work and opened up, sometimes, onsite medical clinics as a convenience. But the movement today is relatively new. It's really only hit within the last two or three years.
LINDER: Darling says healthcare costs are at least 30 times higher than in the 1970s, prompting a growing number of companies to offer health services onsite. Not all companies have their own health staff. Many turn to companies like Pennsylvania-based CHD Meridian, which runs more than 200 health clinics for almost 100 different corporations.
CEO Dixon Thayer said some locations are staffed by a nurse practitioner, while others have a family care physician.
Mr. DIXON THAYER (CHD Meridian): We actually are even providing dental and vision care and so on. We will perform, you know, very minor surgeries, a stitch here or there. But we're not there to replace the hospitals. We're not there to replace the specialists. We're actually there to help the employee get the best care they can.
LINDER: Thayer says the companies with the most to gain from health clinics are those with 1000 or more employees. But Thayer says smaller companies can benefit as well.
Mr. THAYER: Every office building in Manhattan has over 1000 employees. It just may not be with one employer. Or every office park in the suburbs. And so one of the areas that we continue to mine and explore is what we call coalitions, which if there are two or three employers that band together, they still get the same benefit.
LINDER: Thayer says only a few of CHD Meridian's clients are coalitions. But the increasing demand for health clinics has helped CHD Meridian to be named the fastest growing company in the region.
For DAY TO DAY, I'm Brad Linder in Philadelphia.