Large employers are increasingly opening onsite medical clinics to help employees save time and money when they need medical care for a routine illness. Today, one-third of employers with more than 5,000 employees (33% of companies) have an onsite clinic, up from 24% in 2012. Many midsize employers are following suit.
Onsite clinics can be a great resource for large employers: They are convenient, affordable and a great benefit for employees. Like telemedicine, onsite clinics help employees access low-cost, convenient care when they need it.
However, they can’t meet all medical needs. Consequently, many onsite clinics are supplementing their services with telemedicine.
There are three reasons why supplementing with telemedicine might make sense.
Many Clinics Don’t Operate 24/7/365
At First Stop Health, our experience is that only around 30% of calls occur during working hours. If employees happen to get sick during the workday, the onsite clinic is there. But after hours or over the weekend, the clinic can’t help employees who need care.
And at onsite clinics, that care isn’t always administered by a doctor. Typically, a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant leads the onsite clinic and a doctor is there only some of the time. By comparison, telemedicine doctors are available 24/7/365.
Clinics Only Provide Onsite Care
To get free or low-cost care at an onsite clinic, employees need to be at the worksite. This leaves them without care when illness strikes at home, in the middle of the night or on vacation.
Family members covered by the onsite clinic would also need to travel to the worksite for treatment. Bundling up sick children and taking them to a workplace isn’t convenient.
The advantage of telemedicine is that members get access to a doctor whenever and wherever they are — at home, school, work or on vacation — and get treated quickly and prescribed medication, if appropriate.
Clinics Cost Employers a Lot
Onsite clinics require expensive computer systems and supplies, as well as space and management. In fact, an onsite clinic can cost $100,000 to $400,000 to build, furnish and staff, according to one estimate, and per employee per month (PEPM) fees can run up to $70.
Though the cost of telemedicine varies, the right telemedicine benefit is a low- or no-cost solution that helps patients avoid unnecessary in-person doctor visits, saving money for both employees and employers. Telemedicine often involves no startup costs, and good providers take the burden off of HR by creating engagement materials and assisting with employee onboarding.
While onsite clinics can indeed support employees, they can’t meet all of their needs. As healthcare costs continue to rise, reigning in spending while increasing access to care should be the goal. This is where telemedicine comes out ahead.