Corporate wellness trends for 2018

Employer-sponsored healthcare clinics began as a way to treat employee injuries on-site, so those employees could get back to work quickly. Today, on-site and near-site clinics generally also provide basic preventative care, including immunizations and well checks, for employees and their families. Going forward, corporate wellness may take on an entirely new profile, incorporating technology with a new focus on keeping employees healthy.

TechTarget reports that there are seven potential trends for corporate wellness in 2018:

Corporate wellness programs are becoming holistic: Technology-enabled devices such as wearables are becoming popular but true corporate wellness will depend on involving employees in more diverse ways to monitor and track their progress. For example, SAP “recently began offering employees app-based health and diet coaching via mobile coaching app Kurbo and a program that uses molecular medicine and big data to determine the best treatment for employees diagnosed with cancer.”

Consumer tech keeps influencing corporate wellness: Likewise, technology that is popular on the consumer level will find its way into employer-sponsored healthcare programs as those wearables and even advanced technologies like virtual reality pods become more widely used.

Employers are using wellness to keep talent happy: The good news for employees is that the unemployment rate has dipped to just over 4%. For employers, however, that means they have to keep employees happy, and offering them ways to stay healthy can help contribute to employee retention in the future.

More employers are offering DNA kits: Interest in DNA testing is rising among consumers and the corporate healthcare trend is following that lead. Employers are offering discounted DNA testing kits, but also have to offer assurances that the results of those tests will remain confidential and will not be available to the employer.

Incentives are boosting participation: The trend toward third-party rewards for wellness activities is increasing. Employees “who meet certain agreed-upon health or activity goals can be rewarded with gift cards from retailers such as Whole Foods and REI.”

Chatbots are supporting wellness: Interaction with chatbots and voice bots online and through devices like Amazon’s Alexa is becoming more popular for everyday activities. Employers are looking to these options for engaging employees in their own healthcare as well.

Sensors are enabling corporate wellness advances: Devices such as watches that can provide an EKG reading are being offered to employees at a discount, so they can monitor their health privately and effectively. In fact, TechTarget advises that employees should “expect a growing use of internet of things sensors in the workplace to enable greater productivity, elevate mood, reduce stress and promote healthful behavior.”

Nick Dealtry
March 23, 2018


Large companies like Apple embrace employer clinic model

As healthcare costs increase and discussion over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in flux, many large employers are considering how best to provide healthcare coverage for their employees. Their concern is for the health of their staff as well as for the health of their financials. Larger companies are beginning to look at unique options to embrace the employer clinic model.

Companies of all sizes have been providing on-site healthcare for their employees for decades. Recently, the leaders of Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway announced they are planning to “form an independent venture that’ll be focused on healthcare for their US employees.” Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezo acknowledged that they were up for a challenge, but then added that “reducing healthcare’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort.”

Likewise, Apple has announced an employer clinic model in the form of a group of clinics providing healthcare for its employees and their families. The venture, called AC Wellness, is scheduled to launch in the spring of 2018. Apple’s “new primary care group — a group of clinical staff that is run independently from Apple but is dedicated to Apple employees — will initially only serve Apple’s employees in Santa Clara County, where its headquarters are located.”

These large companies recognize that it is less expensive to provide preventative primary care services for their employees than to provide coverage for treating illnesses and injuries. In addition to the cost of treating employees, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that “health problems result in 69 million workers reporting missed days each year, reducing economic output by $260 billion per year.”

Apple is exploring other options for helping employees stay healthy, in addition to the on-site employer clinic. One of those options is determining whether their own Apple watch “can detect irregularities with the heart’s rhythm, an effort that would benefit from a huge population of healthy and sick patients.”

Roy Steiner
March 21, 2018


ROI vs VOI: Which is better for worksite employer clinics?

Most employers are concerned about financial returns on their investments. If they purchase new equipment, for example, they want to know when that new equipment will begin to pay for itself and then reap rewards in terms of additional profit. The same is true for the healthcare options companies offer their employers.

Employers want to know if investing in a worksite clinic will produce significant financial returns on investment (ROI). There is also a more intangible measurement used when discussing employee wellness and that is the measurement of the value on investment (VOI).

Often, ROI on employee healthcare is difficult to measure. A recent Mercer study found that only 41% of those participating had solid numbers to show their specific ROI data. However, 63% of those responding to the survey stated that they were realizing reduced lost work days, which is a specific number related to their worksite clinic ROI.

When reviewing their VOI, employers take into consideration less measurable information such as “employee morale, decreased use of sick days, increased productivity, positivity and talent retention.” These are certainly important factors when evaluating the success of a worksite clinic, particularly as it impacts the employer’s investment, but they are factors that cannot readily be calculated on a financial spreadsheet.

Which is a better measurement for an employer’s worksite clinic? It truly depends on whether the employer is more interested in having its employees reach health-related goals, becoming healthier overall, or whether the employer is focused more on the actual returns on its financial investment, in terms of productivity numbers or reduced healthcare costs.

Employees who are able to access healthcare through a worksite clinic will probably take advantage of those services in some form or another. Many employers go beyond the simple vaccinations and well checks to offer lifestyle management and additional wellness options. The employer must determine whether measuring VOI or ROI is more important to them, in terms of determining the success of those programs.

Roy Steiner
February 5, 2018


The evolution of worksite and employer health clinics

What began as a way to patch up workers and send them back to their jobs has evolved into an array of healthcare services, including fitness center and life management programs. Worksite health clinics have evolved significantly since the days of the “company doctor.”

Surprisingly, the interest in employee fitness began relatively early in the history of worksite and employer health clinics. Companies such as the Pullman Company and National Cash Register recognized the need to keep employees healthy and physically active in the late 1800s. For the majority of employers, though, the emphasis continued to be on treating injuries and illness so that employee productivity was not affected.

The evolution continued after World War II when several companies provided gymnasium facilities and instructors for their upper-level management employees. The fitness trend continued – and expanded to include all employees – throughout the next several decades. Towards the middle of the 20th century, employers recognized the need to provide healthcare for more than just treatment of injuries or physical fitness and further expanded their offerings to include the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

A meaningful moment in the evolution of worksite and employer health clinics occurred with the establishment of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) in 1970. OSHA influenced a shift from treating injuries to preventing injuries. Workplace safety became a focus, and along with it preventative services became a concern of workplace healthcare.

Shortly after, the 1980s brought a wider, more holistic, view of employee health. At that point, worksite and employer health clinics expanded to include lifestyle management programs, including weight loss and smoking clinics, stress management programs, and other health-focused classes.

As part of their evolution, many worksite clinics have recently implemented the use of electronic health records (EHRs) that enable employees and their providers to view their medical data and track their progress more efficiently. Today’s employer health clinics now include a range of services, provided in person and online, designed to keep employees healthy, to keep productivity up, and to keep employer costs down.

Nick Dealtry
February 1, 2018


How employer health clinics are impacting the US healthcare system

Healthcare costs are rising. Concerns about the quality of healthcare services are growing. According to multiple reports, the US spends more money on healthcare than any other industrialized country, but the quality of that care has been inconsistent. Initiatives have been put into place to provide incentives for value-based care, but those often result in increased administrative burdens for independent physicians.

One segment of healthcare, the employer health clinic, has actually been changing the US healthcare system for the better as it continues to become more popular among employers. Worksite clinics offer benefits to employees in terms of convenience, access, and lower costs. These clinics also benefit employers in terms of healthier employees, improved productivity, and lower costs.

Improved access

Healthcare clinics located on-site offer employees convenient access to basic services such as flu shots and immunizations. Many worksite clinics have expanded to offer additional primary care services as well as lifestyle management, stress management, and fitness programs. Employees who enjoy the logistical convenience of visiting their provider, often without having to take leave from their jobs, will typically become more engaged in their own healthcare management.

Improved health outcomes

Employer clinics contribute to a healthier population base of employees and their families. Using technology solutions such as electronic health records (EHRs), providers at worksite clinics can track trends and develop a population health management strategy that can be a critical element in enabling providers in employer health clinics to proactively treat employees and their families more effectively.

Lower costs for all

Employer health clinics help reduce the costs of healthcare services for employees. Healthier employees reduce the costs of absenteeism for the employer, particularly when employer health clinics offer expanded services such as smoking cessation or weight management programs.

Overall, employer health clinics impact the healthcare system by providing consistent quality of care and improving everyone’s bottom line.

Roy Steiner
January 30, 2018


Worksite clinics are expanding their focus

Back in the day, way back in the day, workplace healthcare was focused on treating injuries and illnesses and returning employees to work. Company doctors were paid for their services by the workers themselves, either in the form of a cash payment at the time of treatment or by having the healthcare services deducted from their payroll. The company’s intent in providing a company doctor was primarily productivity.

Fast forward to today’s employers and into the future of workplace wellness. An expansion is taking place, both in terms of the types of services provided as well as the overall focus of the employer in providing those services. Productivity is still a primary concern and many worksite clinics offer programs designed to reduce absenteeism and prevent presenteeism (showing up for work when ill). However, the range and types of services provided at worksite clinics are becoming more holistic.

Wellness programs now include mental health services as well as lifestyle management programs. Workplace healthcare is expanding to include dentistry, obstetrics, physical therapy, and other clinical services that go far beyond the typical flu shots and well checks typically seen in a worksite clinic.

Employers are taking steps, literally, to help employees improve their overall health and fitness, rather than simply treat illnesses. More companies are offering “business class care,” including fitness classes, yoga, and dietician services.

Worksite clinics are also taking advantage of technology such as electronic health records (EHRs) that can help their providers track patient history and be more proactive in their treatment. Employees have access to their own health information through their EHR and tend to become more actively engaged in their healthcare programs. They enjoy the ability to communicate with their physician electronically, reducing the need to take time out of their workday to get answers or further clarifications.

The future of worksite clinic is focused on overall employee health and happiness, rather than simply treating injuries and illnesses, enabling employers to use the benefit to attract and retain quality talent in today’s competitive marketplace.

Christian Piuma
January 23, 2018


Why on-site employer care is effective

The number of employers offering on-site and near-site healthcare clinics for their employees is on the rise. Employers are realizing the benefits of these clinics, both in terms of cost savings and of improved employee health. On-site care, in particular, offers employees the convenience they need as an incentive to access healthcare services. A recent article in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, Benefits of On-Site Clinics, cites a number of reasons that on-site healthcare is effective.

The article emphasizes that “on-site clinics add value in three ways: improved health, lowered healthcare expenditures, and improved productivity related to both reduced absences and/or to presenteeism, which occurs when employees come to work impaired by illness and are unable to work to their full ability.” Many employers focus on reducing absenteeism, but presenteeism can cause a number of issues as well, including reduced productivity and the potential for spreading contagious diseases to other employees.

Population health management is another area in which on-site care can be effective. Using technology, including electronic health records (EHRs), on-site clinic providers can track trends among the specific employer base. As the journal article relates, “on-site clinics can provide cost-effective, quality healthcare to employees, as they provide services targeted to the needs of the workforce.”

On-site healthcare clinics typically provide basic preventative services and primary care services. This type of care can help “avoid or minimize acute episodes of disease.” In cases where employees do acquire acute conditions, treating them “at workplace clinics can eliminate trips to off-site clinics and/or emergency departments that can take hours or even the entire day.”

As the journal article explains, on-site clinics have a significant impact on healthcare, for the employee and the employer, particularly in regard to “decreased costs, a reduction in healthcare expenditures and a positive return on the associated financial investment.”

Christian Piuma
January 22, 2018


What is a multi-employer clinic?

The convenience of healthcare located on an employer’s property is certainly a positive benefit for most employees. Access has been found to be one of the keys to taking advantage of healthcare services, resulting in better outcomes for the patients. However, not all companies are able to afford or have the physical space to accommodate an on-site health clinic. For those companies, another option is the multi-employer clinic.

Healthcare clinics that are near the employer’s site may be contracted by several different employers to provide services for their employees. In fact, such a multi-employer, near-site clinic may actually be more convenient for employees and certainly more convenient for employees’ families. Rather than being located on-site, these clinics are located in the community where employees and their families tend to travel for shopping or other errands outside of work.

Multi-employer clinics can help employers who want to offer the healthcare clinic as a benefit but who do not have the financial or logistical resources to sustain a clinic located on-site. Sharing costs with other employers can be beneficial in terms of cost savings and in terms of providing additional services that may not have been possible with a dedicated on-site clinic.

Company size is not a deterrent in an employer’s desire to offer the healthcare clinic. A recent Mercer survey found that most employers, regardless of size, see the healthcare clinic as a benefit to both employees and the organization as a whole. The survey found that of those companies responding, “63% say it has successfully reduced lost work days, and 58% say it has been successful in helping members control chronic conditions.”

The number of employer healthcare clinics continues to grow as their results are seen to improve productivity and reduce absenteeism. For smaller employers, especially, the multi-employer clinic offers a scalable solution to providing healthcare as a benefit.

Christian Piuma
January 17, 2018


As employers move into on-site care could they start to decrease managed care contracts?

The increase in the number of employers offering on-site care to their employees has impacted healthcare in the US in several ways. On-site healthcare clinics can improve access to medical services which in turn encourages more employees to take advantage of those services. Healthier employees are happier and more productive. In addition, on-site clinics can actually reduce healthcare costs, for the employer as well as the employee.

On the other hand, there is growing frustration among employers with managed care contracts in that they don’t seem to be impacting healthcare costs as significantly. Buyers Health Care Action Group (BHCAG) Executive Director Steve Wetzell says in Managed Care that “employers are more and more questioning if they are going to get their needs met.” He further states that “employers may as well just go right to the providers.”

The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) states that “managed care dollars can represent a significant percentage of a healthcare organization’s revenue” and that “strong managed care contracts can also enhance patient satisfaction because they facilitate patient access to comprehensive treatment and services.”

As more employers turn to on-site healthcare clinics as a benefit for their employers, they are recognizing that option as an effective way to drive down their own costs, as well as their employees’ costs. In fact, there has even been some correlation between employers that offer “outstanding health and wellness programs,” such as on-site healthcare clinics, and their financial performance.

In addition, patient access to medical services increases with the proximity of on-site clinics. Convenience is a significant factor in whether employees take advantage of the healthcare services available to them. When they access the clinic’s preventative services, they are able to realize health benefits that also benefit their employer.

Employers that provide on-site care could very well start to decreased their managed care contracts, as the on-site clinics are shown to reap quality health benefits at reduced costs.

Christian Piuma
January 16, 2018


Employers plan to expand their use of on-site and near-site employer health clinics

The number of employers offering a healthcare clinic as a benefit to their employees is expanding, as is the scope of services those clinics offer. A survey conducted by Towers Watson found that many employers who already provide on-site or near-site health clinics plan to focus more on the role the clinics play in employee wellness by expanding the services they provide.

Two-thirds of the employers responding to the survey said that by 2018 they “expect to expand or enhance the already broad services they offer.” Survey participants also said they “expect their centers to play an even greater role — above and beyond their current use — in the management and coordination of employee wellness.”

Many on-site and near-site employer health clinics offer “business class” care, in addition to the basics of flu shots, immunizations, and well checks. In fact, according to the survey, “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%).”

Expanded services at employer healthcare clinics include pharmacy services and telemedicine. The survey found that in 2015 “half of employer-sponsored health centers now offer some type of pharmacy services, a considerable increase from 38% in 2012.” In addition, “more than one-third (35%) offer telemedicine services, with another 12% planning to in the next two years.”

On-site and near-site clinics that use electronic health records (EHRs) also offer employees more access to their own medical records as well as the opportunity to communicate with their providers at their own convenience. When employees have greater access to convenient healthcare services, they are more likely to take advantage of those services, improving outcomes for both employee and employer.

As employers measure their return on investment (ROI) in on-site and near-site healthcare clinics, they are finding positive results in reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and healthier employees. Expanding services to include lifestyle management and fitness programs, for example, adds to that ROI and to their own bottom line.

Christian Piuma
January 12, 2018