Trend: On-site company clinics keep winning fans

Just yesterday, we told you that the expansion of the retail clinic market may be slowing down a notch. Fortunately for clinic operators, however, demand seems to be growing for another type of convenient clinic. With no relief in site from staggering healthcare costs, on-site clinics run by employers are becoming steadily more popular. Employers say the clinics help lower health costs by encouraging workers to seek primary care before they need more-costly emergency services or hospitalization, and nudging them to use cheaper medications. Meanwhile, the clinics are also seen as a benefit by employees, who appreciate not having to scramble to get to an off-site appointment when they're sick. Employers are encouraging this thinking by cutting co-pays for workers who use the clinics.

Companies bringing clinics on-site include the North American unit of Toyota and Nissan, Harrah's Entertainment and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. And this could just be the tip of the iceberg. According to benefits-consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 32 percent of employers with more than 1,000 workers either have an on-site clinic in place or expect to build one by 2009.

One of the firms getting a foothold in this business is Walgreens, whose Take Care Health division already operates almost 200 clinics in retail settings. Take Care, which runs Toyota's on-site clinic, contends that employers get back $3 to $5 for every dollar invested in setting them up. Where do these savings come from? Take Care Employer Solutions, the company's on-site clinic division, says that clinic management companies under its wing refer 40 percent fewer patients to specialists compared with traditional primary care doctors, and that emergency department visits are down 72 percent at companies where Take Care runs clinics.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this Business Week piece

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