The history of onsite clinics

Healthcare clinics physically located onsite at the employer’s facility are growing in popularity with businesses and with their employees. Offered as a benefit that has proven useful in enticing and retaining quality talent, onsite clinics provide the convenience of primary care services as well as lower costs for employees to access those services. While onsite clinics have been increasing in numbers in the past few years, their existence is anything but new.

Onsite healthcare services date back to the late 19th century. However, onsite providers were originally contracted to patch up workers that were injured on the job so they could go back to work quickly. Some companies provided a wider range of services to upper management, but most were focused on maintaining productivity levels.

During the depression of the 20th century, many companies laid off employees and even had to close their doors permanently, so onsite healthcare declined significantly as it was no longer needed. Once the manufacturing boom restarted, after World War II, more companies began offering the benefit again – and, in fact expanded the available services.

In the mid-20th century, the emphasis shifted to health and wellness, including prevention and primary care, and away from simply treating injuries. Companies such as Texas Instruments, Rockwell, and Xerox implemented employee fitness programs as part of their onsite healthcare. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) also developed during the 1950s, with an emphasis on helping employees with work-life issues.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) was established in 1970 with a focus on avoiding injuries and illnesses, further reinforcing the need for preventive care. Holistic wellness programs began emerging in the 1980s, expanding the services of the online healthcare center to include programs such as smoking cessation and weight loss clinics, nutrition education, and stress management programs.

Today, more employers are offering employees the benefit of onsite healthcare. A recent Mercer survey found that one-third (33%) of US employers with 5,000 or more employees offer general medical worksite clinics in 2017, a significant increase from 24% in 2012.