Opinion: Employers are Key to Improving Healthcare

by Christina Matoski, Nurse Practitioner at OurHealth

It’s no longer news that American healthcare is broken. In the U.S., we spend more than $3 trillion a year on healthcare—more than any other developed nation—yet we are in overall poorer health than similarly developed countries. But dealing with healthcare’s myriad issues isn’t the only challenge facing business owners and employers. They’re also grappling with how to attract and retain a shrinking supply of employees.

Sixty-eight percent of employers say they face difficulties recruiting for the right talent, according to recent research by the Society of Human Resource Management. And when it comes to effective recruiting, employer-sponsored healthcare benefits play a tremendous role: 91 percent of employees rate healthcare benefits as an important aspect of their job.

One approach that addresses both problems is employer-sponsored onsite or near-site healthcare. Indiana is fortunate—as are my patients—to be home to one of the nation’s leading providers of this kind of service: OurHealth. As a nurse practitioner with OurHealth, I’ve seen firsthand how this solution is working here in Northwest Indiana and can work anywhere in America.

I’m very encouraged to see more employers leading the charge to simplify healthcare for their employees and create better wellness outcomes. And they have valid reasons to do so: Onsite and near-site clinics reduce care-delivery costs, simplify access to care, and create healthier outcomes—all of which contribute to decreased overall healthcare spending for employers.

Let’s face it: If you work, you spend more time on the job than you spend with your family. So, when healthcare is in close proximity to where you work, it’s less costly and more convenient. According to a recent study by the American Nursing Association, the cost of a visit to an onsite clinic is less than the same visit would be to an off-site clinic. This is attributed to lower operational costs at a worksite clinic than at other clinics.

Worksite clinics also save time and increase employee productivity. With traditional primary care, you make an appointment that’s days or weeks in advance. On the day of your appointment, you could take up to half a day off to travel to the doctor’s office, wait in a waiting room, and travel back. When you have a dedicated doctor or healthcare provider at your work or nearby, you can seek care more quickly, taking less time away from the job.

Simplifying and increasing access to healthcare for employees also produces better results. Nationwide, 28 percent of men and 17 percent of women don’t have a personal doctor, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. For health issues large and small, an established, healthy relationship with a doctor or healthcare provider has been shown to significantly improve health outcomes.

I’ve noticed this in my time practicing at OurHealth: Because onsite healthcare is typically not a fee-for-service model, doctors and providers like me can spend more time with their patients. Our standard appointment times are 20 and 40 minutes, versus the 13- to 16-minute slots that most doctors report as their average. More time with patients means I have more time to talk, ask, and most importantly listen—and I frequently hear additional details that bolster my diagnosis and treatment plan.

These longer appointment times also create trust and understanding, and they’re one reason why I believe that the preventive care from onsite clinics creates lower overall healthcare costs by preventing the development of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. When patients have access to care that helps them proactively manage these chronic conditions, including medication consultations, holistic assessments of a patient’s behavioral habits, and other preventive measures, patients are more engaged and more likely to improve their overall health.

Employers today have a choice: They can continue to focus on traditional healthcare benefits and continue to see costs rise without corresponding benefits to health improvements, savings, or talent recruitment and retention, or they can explore new ways of delivering benefits that improve savings, health outcomes, and employee morale. For my money—and experience—the smart move is on the latter.