Monday, November 10, 2008

Wowing Employees With Health Care Innovation

An image of a 1901 examination in the faculty ...Image via WikipediaInnovation is important at all companies. How do you control costs and still get a "wow" from your employees? Fortune Top 100 Great Place to Work employer JM Family Enterprises has come up with a way to do both.

All companies are looking for ways to control costs in these difficult economic times. One of the areas of greatest expense and difficulty to control for all employers is health care. This is also true for individual employees.

JM Family Enterprises has become one of a handful of companies across the country to try an innovative new method for controlling health care costs while enhancing the benefits available to their employees.

JM Family has opened its own Health & Wellness Centers at its three Southeast Toyota Distributors vehicle-processing plants in Jacksonville.

Several other employers in Florida are offering or planning to offer similar benefits including Darden, Rosen Hotels & Resorts, and Disney.

As reported in the Jacksonville Business, JM Family is offering medical services at the centers by:

The centers are each staffed by a registered nurse, a medical office specialist and one full-time physician who rotates among the three locations.

JM Family’s 860 Jacksonville employees and their dependents can go to the clinics for urgent care, chronic medical treatment, physicals, flu shots and referrals to imaging centers for mammograms and prostate screenings.

“This is part of our effort to responsibly manage the rising cost of health care,” said David Bush, JM Family’s director of benefits strategy. “The biggest reward to the company is the savings in lost productivity because we’re helping to keep the associates healthier by earlier intervention.”

Preventive care and management of chronic health problems are where the savings happen, said Stuart Clark, executive vice president of operations for Comprehensive Health Services, which operates 90 on-site medical clinics for large employers.

“Primary care medicine is broken,” Clark said. “Our country is getting fatter and sicker, and the way it is now, physicians have no reimbursement and no time to spend with patients.”

On-site medical clinics operate outside the insurance company payment system. The employer pays the bills, which Clark said are reduced by eliminating inefficiencies and by creating incentives to help workers better manage such chronic health concerns as diabetes, hypertension and heart conditions.

“For those who don’t use our clinics, the cost per capita of treating a diabetic is $18,000 a year,” Clark said. “But when a diabetic patient develops a relationship at one of our clinics, they’re monitored more closely, their behavior changes and they take better care of themselves. Fewer referrals to outside specialists are required, and we find their cost for care drops to $8,000 a year.”

Other large employers who have built on-site medical clinics include Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., Intel Corp., Darden Restaurants Inc. , Lockheed Martin Corp. and Rosen Hotels & Resorts Inc. The Walt Disney Co. plans to open next spring its $6 million medical clinic at Disney World for employees and their dependents participating in the company’s health plans.

Benefits-consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide, which has been advising JM Family, predicts that one-third of all companies with more than 1,000 employees will build their own medical clinics by the end of next year.

These are not throwbacks to the days of “company doctors” who kept employers in the loop in a way that might jeopardize employee privacy, say on-site center managers.

“We have HIPAA [the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act] and physicians and nurses with a code of ethics,” Clark said. “An employer has no access to medical records; that would be breaking the law.”

Companies also can save money on medicines, with the on-site pharmacies steering patients to generic drugs that have proven as effective as branded products.

“Our pharmacy benefit plan is geared to promoting the use of generics and compliance with prescribed drug therapies for asthma, diabetes and coronary issues,” Bush said.

JM Family employees enrolled in its high-deductible health savings account plan do pay a nominal fee to use the on-site clinics, while those with traditional medical plans can access the Health & Wellness Centers for free. The plan includes hospitalization. In the past year, the centers have logged 5,200 office visits, Bush said.

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