Direct Healthcare is a Vital Tool to Improve Employee Health

Direct Healthcare is a Vital Tool to Improve Employee Health

By Tim Ross, Director, Franciscan HEALTHeACCESS.

For more than two years, employers have done their best to navigate a pandemic that placed unprecedented pressures on the well-being of their workforce.

One unfortunate side-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the impact of delays in care. A recent study from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health found that roughly 20% said they or their household members delayed receiving medical care or were unable to get care at all during the crisis.

Among those who said they received delayed care, 57% said they had negative health consequences. A majority of households that include people with chronic conditions reported cutting back on care.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, though, absences caused by chronic illnesses had been an increasingly costly problem for employers.

According to the CDC, preventable chronic conditions are a major contributor to the costs of health insurance premiums and employee medical claims, which are at an all-time high in the U.S. Five factors—high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity—cost American employers $36.4 billion a year because of employees missing days of work.

That’s why an increasing number employers are investing in workplace programs that promote and protect health and prevent disease. A healthier workforce can mean lower direct costs, such as insurance premiums and workers’ compensation claims, and lower indirect costs if workers miss less work because of illness.

Direct healthcare in the form of onsite, near-site and virtual health has emerged as a prime solution. By enhancing access to high-quality, convenient primary care, health screenings and wellness programs, chronic conditions can be addressed before they lead to a hospital stay.

That’s the win-win of this equation – healthier workforce and lower costs.

We have seen this in our experience with the large, midsized, and small employers and municipalities that are part of Franciscan HEALTHeACCESS, a near-site, shared employer clinic program with locations in Northwest, Western and Central Indiana. A set monthly charge provides employees and their dependents with primary and urgent care with no copay, along with lab tests and prescriptions. Some generic prescriptions are no charge to the patient.

Crown Point Mayor David Uran said the fixed-fee access model has stabilized and even lowered healthcare costs for the city.

“The contract we have with Franciscan Health and the clinic we have has saved Crown Point hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Uran said. “To be able to walk in that (clinic) door is just a huge benefit to the employee and the confidence they have to continue to make sure they’re healthy.”

For those seeking more information about direct healthcare, the not-for-profit National Association of Worksite Health Centers ( offers resources to research and find the greatest return from their onsite and near-site health centers. The organization has created the Performance Measurement Initiative, a process to collect and analyze information and experiences from NAWHC members, and non-member employers, consultants, vendors and providers. The result is the “Guidebook for Measuring the Performance of Worksite Health and Wellness Centers.”

While analytics and finances are important factors when considering whether direct healthcare is right for your organization, the benefits of the wellbeing of employees can be more difficult to quantify.

As we have learned over the past two years, when chronic illnesses take root, busy hospitals can be easily overwhelmed when a virus surges through a community. By preventing people from getting sick in the first place, direct healthcare can be part of the solution, easing that emergent care pressure when the next crisis arrives.

Category Features, Last Word