Worksite clinics to fill demand of reform

NEW YORK —The spotlight is shining brighter and brighter on worksite clinics as employers work to rein in healthcare costs and boost employee health and productivity, and that spotlight is about to get even brighter as U.S. healthcare reform will likely be a “shot in the arm” for the segment.

“We envision that retail clinics, whether they are in employer sites or retail pharmacies, will actually benefit from health reform…. I fully expect these health ‘exchanges’ in 2014 to include, if not require, that retail clinics be part of the delivery network,” said Paul Keckley, executive director for the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

There’s no doubt that there’s a pent-up demand for healthcare services, and by all accounts it looks like that demand will only intensify when you consider the newly insured, as well as the insured who might no longer have to pay co-pays for preventive health. Then there’s the physician shortage debacle to throw into the mix. The bottom line is that there’s a growing need for convenient and cost-effective health care, and it is likely that more employers will turn to worksite clinics for the answer.

Take, for example, the onsite Health and Wellness Center located at Harrah’s Showboat casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The clinic, operated by Walgreens’ Take Care Health Systems employer services group, opened in 2005. During its first year of operation, the facility was seeing about 26 patients a day, Emily Gaines, VP compensation, benefits and HRSS for Harrah’s Entertainment, told Drug Store News. Now, the center is seeing an average of 65 patients a day and is up to about 17,000 visits a year.

“We are increasingly seeing, with healthcare reform, a new emphasis on all kinds of novel care delivery settings, including worksite clinics. People are understanding that you don’t have to sacrifice quality while embracing better convenience and affordability,” stated Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association.

According to the most recent data available by research and consulting firm Fuld & Co., issued February 2009, it is estimated that the number of onsite health clinics could grow by 15% to 20% a year from 2,200 to 7,000 by 2015. Given the current growth rate, on-site clinics could serve more than 10% of the under-65s by 2015.

Keckley noted that Deloitte has been following the maturation of the onsite clinic model, including CareHere. CareHere’s model basically reintroduces the company doctor, offering primary care services, as well as occupational health and lab work. CareHere currently operates about 90 clinics throughout the country.

Keckley anticipates that pharmacies will begin to align themselves with these types of worksite primary care clinics.

“I think [the group of newly insured] is bigger than 32 million. I think the newly insured, at the end of the reform bill, will be closer to 40 million because the law immediately said you have to cover kids under 26 who don’t currently have insurance and are eligible. And it puts a lot more emphasis on no co-pay and deductible for preventive health.… So I think there will be increased volume in retail settings beyond those 32 million newly insured,” Keckley said. “I think it’s a shot in the arm.”

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