Employers See Results with Onsite Health Centers

Employers are confident their onsite or near-site health centers improve the health and productivity of their employees, a survey finds.

Nearly four in 10 (38%) large U.S. employers with onsite health facilities plan to add new centers over the next two years, according the Towers Watson 2015 Employer-Sponsored Health Care Centers Survey.

A majority of the 120 responding employers that already have onsite or near-site health facilities, or are planning to implement them, share these objectives for their centers:

  • increase productivity (75%);
  • reduce health care costs (74%); and
  • improve convenient employee access to health care services (66%).

Nearly all centers offer a similar range of primary care services. Immunizations (99%), care for acute conditions such as upper respiratory and urinary tract infections (99%), and blood draws (95%) top the list.

By 2018, two-thirds of survey respondents (66%) expect to expand or enhance the already broad services they offer. In addition, employers expect their centers to play an even greater role—above and beyond their current use—in the management and coordination of employee wellness. Wellness programs are already available at 86% of centers, and lifestyle coaching to promote and reinforce behavior changes is currently offered at nearly two-thirds (63%).

NEXT: Increasing pharmacy services and telemedicine.

Employers have also been expanding the scope of their onsite and near-site health centers beyond primary care. Half of employer-sponsored health centers now offer some type of pharmacy services, a considerable increase from 38% in 2012. “Pharmacy services interest employers because they offer convenient access to prescription drugs for employees, encourage medication compliance and help decrease overall medical and pharmacy spend,” says Dr. Allan Khoury, senior consultant at Towers Watson.

The survey also finds growth in telemedicine. More than one-third (35%) of responding employers offer telemedicine services, with another 12% planning to in the next two years. “Telemedicine and onsite health centers are perfect complements,” adds Khoury. “They help employers make it easy for employees and other eligible members to see a doctor and get informed medical expertise — even on evenings and weekends. They also support an overall employer strategy of keeping workers productive and eliminating wasteful costs such as unnecessary emergency room visits.”

Outsourcing to vendors is the most popular option (64%) for managing staffing and services at the health centers. Roughly one-quarter of survey respondents (23%) report that they run the centers themselves, and nearly one-fifth (18%) use local or regional provider groups or health systems.

NEXT: Measuring return on investment.

Given cost control pressures, more employers are now measuring their centers’ return on investment (ROI). Three in four (75%) employers with onsite health centers calculate their ROI, up significantly from 47% in 2012. However, just 12% of employers have the analysis performed by an independent third party; 33% use their vendors, and 30% rely on internal staff analysis.

Towers Watson says its experience demonstrates that employer-sponsored health centers’ ROI is highly dependent upon employee utilization and staffing levels, for example, clinics increase preventive care while decreasing emergency department and inpatient use. Members with higher health risk scores are more likely to use the employer-sponsored health center, and using the center to refer them to a preferred network of specialists can lead to substantial cost savings.

The Towers Watson 2015 Employer-Sponsored Health Care Centers Survey surveyed mid- to senior-level benefit professionals from 137 U.S. employers in February and March. Out of the respondents, 105 currently offer employer-sponsored health centers, and 15 are planning to offer by 2018.