A tremendous shift occurred in the delivery of healthcare over the past two decades, with employers and plan sponsors now leading the charge for offering high-quality, patient-centered advanced primary care as an impactful benefit on employee and member health.
In fact, one-third of all organizations with 5,000 or more employees now provide a health center at or near the worksite, a 24% increase since 2012, according to the National Association of Worksite Health Centers.
Employers of all sizes — from state and local municipalities to private sector organizations across most industries — adopt clinics for a variety of reasons and benefits, says Bruce Hochstadt, MD, Executive Vice President of Health Center Operations and Sales at Marathon Health, noting how prospective buyers often consider several factors.
“Is it about improving access and convenience? Is it about saving money, lowering their health benefit spend, or moderating the year-over-year trend? Are they looking to reduce lost time and absence, and improve productivity?” he says.
Employer-sponsored health centers, located onsite at a place of business or in a cluster of strategically placed network clinics around town, also aid talent attraction and retention in a competitive business climate.
“For many employers, boosting employee retention, recruitment and morale, as well as positioning the organization as an employer of choice by enhancing the employment value proposition, has surfaced to the top,” Dr. Hochstadt says.
Employers typically partner with a health center provider for a mix of practical and financial reasons. When vetting a worksite center solution, employers need to understand that not all prospective partners offer the same level of service and care.
Chad Ashcraft, Marathon Health’s Executive Vice President of Growth, recommends partnering with a health center provider that practices the Primary Care Collaborative’s Shared Attributes of Advanced Primary Care, a framework that prioritizes high-value, patient-centered primary care.
The PCC’s framework consists of seven key components, including:
1. Patient-Centered Care
Primary care focuses on the whole person, including physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being. Providers customize care delivery based on individual preferences, values and goals using shared decision-making strategies.
Member Norm Lendway says he visited a Marathon Health Center through his employer-sponsored health benefits after avoiding the doctor for several years.
“At my first appointment, I completed a physical exam and underwent lab testing,” Lendway says. “Chris-Ann Lauria, a family nurse practitioner, spent a lot of time with me and asked many questions about my health history. She also recommended testing for colon, prostate and lung cancer, as those are routine screenings for someone my age.”
“Shocking to me, my prostate-specific antigen levels came back high,” he adds. “In response to my results, my Marathon Health providers set up an appointment for me with a urologist. That’s when I learned I had prostate cancer.”
Now cancer-free, Lendway says, “I’m thankful they caught it early.”
2. Advanced-Primary Care Includes Continuous Care
Long-term, ongoing relationships between members and their clinic teams foster trust, and provide perspective and context to treat all stages of a patient’s life.
Patients can become quickly overwhelmed when they need to see a specialist or another health care provider. Teams at independent health centers should play a key role when it comes to care navigation. Providers should act as a concierge, supporting patients to find the best care outside their own four walls and within the local healthcare community, taking into consideration quality care and cost.
“One of our own team members had a breast cancer scare,” Ashcraft says. “She called her ob/gyn who told her they wouldn’t be able to get her in for six weeks. Marathon Health was able to get her a mammogram quickly and a cyst aspiration just five days after the original appointment to rule out breast cancer. Having to navigate the process was easier with a provider by her side. The best news was the fluid was non-malignant. For any patient, just getting in to see a doctor in a timely manner can be frustrating.”
3. Comprehensive and Equitable Care
Care includes acute and sick visits, chronic and preventive care, behavioral and mental health and more. Additionally, the wellness provider promotes population health and health equity, including spotlighting known inequities and identifying solutions.
“A provider spending 40 minutes to an hour with a patient is going to have more time to not only treat that need, but also spend time talking about lifestyle changes,” Ashcraft explains. “The patient may visit for a sinus infection, but it gives the provider the time to ask ‘How’s everything else going in your life? Are you managing stress? Are you getting enough sleep?’”
4. Team-Based Collaborative Care
Clinic teams — including doctors, nurses, medical assistants, health coaches, dietitians and behavioral health specialists — work collaboratively with patients, and according to clearly defined roles and responsibilities to achieve common health goals.
5. Coordinated and Integrated Advanced Primary Care
Primary care integrates and communicates the activities of a patient’s care team across the spectrum of collaborators, and helps patients seamlessly navigate the guidance and recommendations they receive from other clinicians, specialists and professionals.
Additionally, the primary care provider employs the technology infrastructure to pass data between health systems and uncover valuable health insights.
6. Convenient Access to Care
Patients gain convenient access to primary care — both in-person and virtually — regardless of cognitive or physical barriers. As the first source of care, clinicians and staff make themselves available and responsive to best serve individual patient needs, while providing easy, routine access to their health information.
“Our preference is to provide comprehensive primary care, where we are the main source of care delivery, or we supplement an employee or a dependent who might have a personal physician who they like and have good access to, but can’t always get in quickly or for minor issues,” Dr. Hochstadt says. “We almost always are the more convenient alternative.”
7. High-Value Care
The primary care provider focuses on value-based care and strives for excellent health outcomes, while conserving resources, considering patient costs, and offering an exceptional experience for every patient and clinician. The health center provider also proactively employs a systematic approach to measuring, reporting and improving population health, quality, equity, and safety.
“You want to ensure they have the data proficiency to report on and use that data to drive more targeted engagement for population health management,” Ashcraft says. For example, if a high number of employees who’ve visited the health center have depression, the goal will be to increase knowledge of behavioral health services and workshops offered to improve mental health.
Remember, the end goal of partnering with an employer-sponsored health center provider involves making it easier for employees to receive high-quality care — when they need it — and through a variety of channels and providers. As you search for a health center partner, make sure to choose one with a solution that values treating the whole patient.