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More Companies Adding On-Site Health Clinics

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More Companies Adding On-Site Health Clinics

Health Care

More Companies Adding On-Site Health Clinics

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Is there a doctor in the house? Increasingly, there is - or at least a doctor in the building, as more and more companies put health care clinics in the work place. That can mean big savings. Some studies show businesses can cut health care costs by up to 30 percent. Erin Toner of member station WUWM in Milwaukee reports.

ERIN TONER: For half a century now, workers here at Rockwell Automation in Milwaukee have been able to see a doctor just steps away from their desks or the production line.

Ms. CHERI PIZZO (Columbia Saint Mary's): This is our lab area. We can do drawing of any blood, urine. We do pregnancy tests for employees here.

TONER: Cheri Pizzo is with Columbia Saint Mary's, a local hospital that operates the company's 55-year-old clinic. In some ways, it looks its age, with sea-foam green wall tile and retro furniture. The cost of care here is also kind of retro.

Ms. PIZZO: They have a $5 fee to see an MD or a nurse practitioner. And that's the entire cost of their visit. A physical therapy appointment is $3 for a 45-minute visit.

TONER: The company says the goal has always been to make good medical care convenient and affordable for workers so they don't have to call in sick. Employee Brett Jorgensen might be exactly the person the company had in mind. He used to never go to the doctor.

Mr. BRETT JORGENSEN (Rockwell Automation): You know, being the standard male that I am, if it's not broke don't fix it. So basically, this ended up bad, as I was having headaches and blurry vision and numbness and tingling down my right side. I finally mentioned it to my wife. She said, you should - I should probably go to a doctor.

TONER: It turned out to be a brain tumor. And now Jorgensen's undergoing treatment.

Mr. JORGENSEN: And I can just walk in here and see a physician, and at least get a preliminary diagnosis. Maybe I have to go someplace else depending on what's going on, but at least I can figure out, you know, okay, I'm not dying.

TONER: Jorgensen is among a growing number of people who see a doctor at work, according to Michael Ratcliffe, who is with the consulting firm Fuld and Company. Ratcliffe says more than 1,000 U.S. companies have onsite health clinics with doctors, nurses and labs. And many offer 30-minute visits. He estimates that clinics like these will serve 10 to 15 percent of the working population within the next few years.

Mr. MICHAEL RATCLIFFE (Fuld and Company): Today, there's a huge movement around wellness. It's moved from trying to manage these high-cost diseases to trying to think about catching them early through wellness programs.

TONER: That's the role job site clinics can often play. Ratcliffe cites studies showing savings of between 10 and 30 percent.

Mr. RATCLIFFE: You get a very quick return on investment from these facilities.

TONER: Some firms have hired workplace health providers, and that industry is also growing. Drug store chain Walgreens operates hundreds of job site clinics and says it hopes to open thousands more in the coming years.

While these clinics may make good business sense, there are some concerns. Dr. Ted Epperly is president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He says most employees still have private doctors, and right now, records generally don't follow patients from place to place.

Dr. TED EPPERLY (President, American Academy of Family Physicians): Electronic medical records, which may be in place on either end of this equation, often don't talk to each other. And oftentimes, there is no proactive effort to contact the practice, or vice versa.

TONER: Epperly says until there's a better electronic record system, the onus is on patients to keep track of their health care whether they get it on or off the job.

For NPR News, I'm Erin Toner in Milwaukee.

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