In-House Health Clinics Gaining Popularity

For several people around the globe, having a doctor or dentist appointment has meant taking extra time off of work.  Whether this is a treat, (i.e., justification for a three-hour lunch break) or simply your excuse (i.e., I can’t visit the dentist.  I don’t have any more time to take from work), this may no longer be necessary.  According to the Reuters article, “The doctor (in the next cubicle) will see you now,” more and more businesses around the country are offering in-house health clinics as a means to control health care costs.  From diagnosing suspicious symptoms, to writing prescriptions or even managing chronic conditions, studies are showing a huge financial return for in-company health programs.  Could this possibly be the way of the health care future?

According to a 2009 study conducted by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, for every dollar spent on in-house programs, companies can expect a return of $1.50 to $3; not a shabby profit margin.  Advocates of the programs are thrilled with the money and time saved by visiting a nearby clinic.  The convenience apparently prompts more individuals to have symptoms checked quickly, as opposed to waiting until very severe.  So, not only are employees not missing as much work while commuting to far-away offices, they also don’t miss as much work due to preventable or treatable illnesses that went undiagnosed.  America is, in general, seeing a consistent increase in chronic conditions, says Peter Hotz, a group vice president at Walgreen Co.  Issues like diabetes and obesity are prompting more and more work places to offer support and counseling for those affected.

But not everyone is on board with these programs.   Although studies have found that in the long run, companies save money with in-house clinics, they are quite expensive to set up, costing nearly $2 million to get up and running.  Many small and medium sized companies in America simply can’t afford that sort of overhead.  Additionally, many employees are concerned that medical records won’t be kept confidential, potentially causing companies to fire the more expensive, less-than-healthy employees.  Still others are concerned that mixing their professional and personal lives in this manner could potentially damage their reputations.  Some medical conditions are not appropriate water-cooler conversation starters, which some fear could be inevitable if visiting a doctor in the workplace.  Obviously, not all issues can be addressed in these clinics.  Specialized physicians would still be required for, say, child-birth or back surgery.  But for simple check-ups, a prescription for that nasty sinus-infection that’s been ailing you, or a semi-annual teeth cleaning, many believe in-house clinics to be a very promising approach to combating rising medical costs.  Only time will tell how popular they truly become.

Written by Mark Paulsort

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