Manufacturing’s New Model for Primary Care?

On-site health care clinics are becoming more popular for small-sized companies. Will more manufacturers consider this alternative?


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U.S. businesses have seen annual health care costs increase by double-digit percentages in recent years. Peter Dunn, a principal of Activate Health Care, which sets up and manages on-site health care clinics for its clients, believes this leaves employers with three basic choices. They can maintain the status quo and do nothing about ballooning health care and workers’ comp costs. They can cease offering health care benefits, which hinders their ability to attract quality employees. Or, they can place emphasis on preventing and fighting disease.
Activate offers a strategy for those eyeing the third option and partners with businesses to establish their own health care clinics either close to or at their facilities. This isn’t a new concept; a number of very large companies have such personal clinics. However, Mr. Dunn notes that a greater number of small-sized companies are now considering this option, given rising costs and uncertainty about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Bremen Castings Inc. (BCI), profiled in this story, partnered with Activate to establish its clinic, which offers insured employees and their dependents convenient access to primary care, generic drugs and health coaching at no cost. At just under 300 employees, BCI is currently the sole user of this clinic, although it is looking to partner with other companies to share operating expenses. It’s this capability to share a clinic that will lead more small companies to adopt the on-site model, Mr. Dunn says.
Activate’s strategy in particular offers more than convenience and reduced primary care costs for the employer and employees. It takes a proactive, integrated approach to managing and guiding patient care with the goal of improving overall patient health. Activate clinics review two years of medical claims for each patient, perform a health risk assessment and carry out a tailored lab test so doctors know a great deal about a patient’s health prior to a comprehensive, annual physical. The up-front diagnostic work combined with the physical enables clinics to develop individually tailored health goals and action plans. A nurse practitioner/health coach then offers support to patients in reaching their goals.
This approach isn’t right for every company. Startup costs can be high. BCI spent approximately $120,000 for its top-of-the-line clinic, which is part of a new facility it built that includes space for meetings and employee training. Plus, it may be a few years before companies realize a return on their investment. However, given that the current health care situation seems unsustainable and there are still a number of unknowns with the President’s new health care law, outside-the-box solutions are certainly worth considering.