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Comparing and contrasting on-site clinics and direct primary care

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Employers typically offer benefits to their employees in the form of health care coverage. That coverage can take many forms beyond the traditional health insurance program. A number of employers provide on-site clinics for their employees and some are starting to offer direct primary care (DPC) physician services as their healthcare benefits. What are the differences between these two options?

Convenience is a significant factor in both the on-site clinic and the DPC model. Employees who have access to an on-site clinic enjoy the benefits of being able to see their physician and, in many cases, have lab tests done, at their employers’ physical site. The need to take a day off from work is virtually eliminated when the clinic is only steps away.

A DPC practice generally provides quick and convenient access to the physician as well. The DPC model is supported through patient membership fees, which the employer would pay when offering as a benefit to employees. In return, patients are provided with personalized care, including focused attention and communication with their primary care provider during and after their visit. Physicians in a DPC practice see fewer patients per month and are able to give each patient more time per visit.

Patient-focused care is at the heart of the DPC practice. With no per-visit fees or co-pays, the administrative burden is significantly reduced so there is more time to focus on each patient. An on-site clinic may be seen as focused on the organization’s employees, so family members may not feel as comfortable visiting the physician there.

Employees are not able to use their Health Savings Accounts (HSA) for any DPC fees that would not be covered by their employers. On-site clinics are covered by more traditional insurance plans that might enable employees to take advantage of the HSA program.

Both the on-site clinic and the DPC practice are focused on providing quality healthcare to their patients, including coordinating care with other providers that might be treating the employees.