Study: On-site clinics can help public employers curb healthcare costs
NEW YORK — With the cost of employee healthcare benefits on the rise, public employers are under increased pressure to contain costs while also providing benefits that help them maintain a healthy work force and attract the best employees. One solution to consider: on-site health clinics, according to a recently released study.
The Government Finance Officers Association, with a grant from Colonial Life, conducted the independent research to identify the most innovative and effective strategies local governments can employ to contain costs and offer quality employee healthcare benefits.
“One strategy to manage choice of providers while improving the quality of the health benefit for employees is on-site health centers, also known as on-site clinics. An on-site clinic is essentially a doctor’s office that is provided by the public employer, on or near the employer’s premises,” the study stated. “Staffing varies with expected use of the clinic, from only nurse practitioners and physician assistants to a full medical staff. The services offered range from just immunizations and limited acute care to physicals, lab work, behavioral health services and even pharmacy services.”
The case study research suggested that most governments favor relying on a third-party vendor to manage the clinic on their behalf, and that on-site clinics can provide services more cheaply than commercial providers. Furthermore, because an on-site clinic is more accessible than commercial providers, employees usually seek treatment for minor ailments before they become major conditions that are more costly to treat.
The research found that on-site clinics offer a substantial return on investment, with figures ranging from $1.60 to $4 saved for every dollar invested. For example, Cabarrus County, North Carolina, offers a full-service clinic to 1,300 employees and dependents, and realized a net cost savings of $624,000 over a four-year period, the study stated.
However, the study pointed out that, in order to be effective, a clinic must have about 800 to 1,000 potential patients. For a smaller employer, this means that sharing a clinic with other smaller employers might be an ideal solution. For example, in Texas, the City of Mesquite is on the border of what is required to run a cost-effective clinic (1,148 employees), so it partnered with the Mesquite School District (4,700 employees) to offer a full-service clinic.
Once a clinic is in place, employees need to have an incentive to use the clinic instead of a commercial provider. GFOA’s case studies used a number of enticements to make the clinic less expensive and more convenient than other alternatives:
- Waive or substantially reduce co-pays when visiting the clinic;
- Provide convenient scheduling options, such as Web-based appointment setting. Employers also can negotiate wait time standards with the managers of the clinic to ensure visits are expeditious;
- Develop advantageous time-off policies for using the clinic, such as not requiring the use of sick time to visit the clinic or allowing flexible work scheduling; and
- Provide services that are focused but cover major employee needs. Clinics that provide only the most basic services will not see high utilization, and services that are too specialized will not enjoy economies of scale.
These findings are consistent with what Trans World Airlines found when we established onsite and rapid response specialty clinics for them in the 1980s and beyond. We have since advanced much further, utilizing telecommunication, technology and remote diagnostic and treatment options that were not available 30 years ago. Hopefully private and public employers won't rely simply on this study and end up creating onsite clinics that ignore the advances that have been made over the past three decades. Ron Hammerle, Chairman Health Resources, Ltd. Tampa, Florida
Walgreens fields 500-plus HIV Centers of Excellence pharmacies
CHICAGO — Walgreens now has certified more than 500 of its pharmacies as HIV Centers of Excellence in communities highly impacted by HIV, as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pharmacy operator announced Thursday at the U.S. Conference on AIDS.
These pharmacies are staffed with specially-trained pharmacists that work closely with patients to offer guidance and support with their medication therapy, provide refill reminders and also help identify financial support programs. In addition, pharmacists do community outreach to drive more awareness about services offered through the COEs. These locations are fully stocked with HIV medications often not found at retail pharmacies.
“Since the beginning of the epidemic more than 30 years ago, Walgreens has supported people living with HIV/AIDS through its ability to offer accessible health and wellness guidance to patients across the nation,” Walgreens divisional VP retail clinical services Jack Cantlin said. “Our pharmacists are listening to concerns, developing important relationships and putting community pharmacy in a great position to be even more effective and relevant to those with chronic conditions, wherever they live. These Centers of Excellence offer a new level of support that can ultimately help drive improved outcomes.”
COE-certified Walgreens pharmacy staff must undergo clinical training through the University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, known for its HIV/AIDS pharmaceutical care education program. The program includes cultural and social training related to HIV/AIDS issues and challenges and annual renewal to keep skills and knowledge current.
Walgreens also announced its expanded partnership with Greater Than AIDS, a national campaign developed by the Kaiser Family Foundation with the Black AIDS Institute in response to HIV/AIDS in the United States. This June, select Walgreens locations in major markets offered free testing leading up to National HIV Testing Day, as part of the partnership with Greater Than AIDS. Testing was done in coordination with the National Association of People with AIDS, the CDC, state and local health departments and AIDS service organizations in select markets, including Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; Houston; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Miami; New Orleans; Oakland, Calif.; and San Francisco. Due to the success of this testing pilot, the drug store chain now is working with Greater Than AIDS to identify future testing and outreach opportunities to reach those in need. Walgreens also partners with Greater Than AIDS on targeted informational materials on HIV/AIDS for Walgreens customers and in-store signage in heavily affected areas. More information can be found at GreaterThan.org/Walgreens.
Walgreens also is working with AIDS United and national AIDS service organizations to help advance the organization’s mission to end HIV/AIDS in the United States and Puerto Rico. The company has joined AIDS United’s Access to Care initiative, to help link thousands of individuals living with HIV/AIDS in low-income and/or rural areas with the high quality care they need.
“With HIV Centers of Excellence from coast to coast, we are uniquely positioned to work closely with grassroots organizations and communities to help provide access, education and support to those living with and affected by AIDS,” Walgreens senior manager of HIV and AIDS United board member Glen Pietrandoni said.
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Signum, GSK enter collaborative agreement
PRINCETON, N.J. — Biotechnology company Signum Biosciences has entered a collaborative agreement with GlaxoSmithKline whereby GSK will receive the exclusive right to Signum’s proprietary phosphatase screening technology.
GSK and Signum said the companies "will undertake a broad research and development collaboration to screen and identify phosphoprotein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) targeted compounds, including those bridging the link between PP2A methylation and tau hyperphosphorylation." As part of the agreement, Signum will be provided research support and milestone payments as GSK forges ahead with its research and development activities in neurosciences.
"GSK is an ideal partner for Signum," Signum president Maxwell Stock said. "We will develop therapeutics using our phosphatase screening technology in an alliance that utilizes the expertise of both companies. We are proud to be working in collaboration with a leading pharmaceutical company in innovative research and development. Collaborations such as these allow partners to share knowledge, expertise and resources and thereby provide a highly effective way of progressing cutting edge research and developing an effective drug."
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