Commonplace in the 1980s among the heavy industry/manufacturing and financial sectors, workplace clinics were geared primarily toward treating workplace injuries or minimizing employees’ time away from work. Experts attribute their recent resurgence to employers viewing them as a tool for containing medical costs and boosting productivity, as well as an asset in helping to attract potential employees, according to a new study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Changes in Health Care Financing and Organization Initiative, which is administered by AcademyHealth. The benefits of workplace clinics don’t stop with employers, however. Most try to offer shorter appointment and in-office wait times, as well longer clinician visits than typical in another medical care setting.
These and other findings resulted from a literature review and more than 35 interviews conducted with workplace clinic industry experts, benefits consultants, clinic vendors and employers sponsoring onsite clinics. Study authors with the Center for Studying Health System Change note that while well-designed, well-implemented workplace clinics are likely to achieve positive, long-term returns for employers, it may be unrealistic to expect them to be an immediate game-changer in bending the overall health care cost curve. Estimates of workplace clinic prevalence vary considerably—from one-fifth of large employers offering onsite or nearby clinics, to more than one-third doing so. Still, the authors note that provisions within the Affordable Care Act may encourage more U.S. employers to offer wellness programs through such clinics.