Employers Don't Have a Handle on Operating Onsite Health Centers

March 19, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Research from Watson Wyatt finds operational issues are impeding employers from tapping into the full potential of onsite health centers.

Nearly one-third of companies (29%) have or plan to have an onsite health center by 2009, up from 27% in 2006, according to Watson Wyatt/National Business Group on Health research. A separate Watson Wyatt study of 84 companies with onsite health care centers found that reducing medical costs was the chief reason 70% of companies have opened a center since 2000 (recent adopters).

Only 49% of companies that adopted health centers before 2000 (early adopters) did so due to cost, Watson Wyatt said in a news release. More early adopters (54%) opened a center to address occupational health.

However, companies report challenges in operating the centers. Challenges cited include:

  • Inadequate measures of performance 45%,
  • Less than ideal location 23%,
  • Lack of integration with health and productivity programs 19%,
  • Lack of integration with local medical providers 17%,
  • Lower than expected utilization 17%,
  • Higher utilization for “self care” 10%, and
  • No challenges indicated 26%.

In addition, Watson Wyatt found most companies do not link their data to medical claims (41% of recent adopters and 58% of early adopters). Nearly one-fifth do not store their data electronically (19% of recent adopters and 16% of early adopters). Further, only 39% of companies integrate disease management programs with their onsite health centers and only 30% connect them with a nursing hotline, Watson Wyatt said.

Additional survey findings include:

  • Preventive services such as immunizations and screenings are the most common offering among recent adopters of onsite health centers (81%).
  • Mental health counseling is more than three times as common among early adopters (46% versus 15%).
  • Physical therapy is twice as prevalent among early adopters (44% versus 22%).
  • Recent adopters are nearly twice as likely as early adopters to offer pharmacy benefits (44% versus 23%).
  • Nearly all (96%) employers make onsite health center services available to employees enrolled in their health plan.
  • Nearly three-quarters (71%) of companies provide services to part-time employees, even those not eligible to participate in the health plan.
  • Only 25% of organizations offer clinic services to covered dependents and just one-fifth (20%) of retirees are offered access to the center.

More information on the 2007/2008 Onsite Health Center Survey of 84 large companies is available at http://www.watsonwyatt.com/onsitehealthcenters .