As the number of on-site and near-site clinics grow, medical laboratories and pathologists could find unique opportunities to bridge the information gap between traditional health systems and new employer-based offerings
Employers have a big stake in lowering the cost of healthcare. That is one reason why more employers are incorporating employee wellness programs into their health benefit offerings. This is a favorable trend for medical laboratories, because such wellness programs often incorporate clinical laboratory tests as benchmarks from which employees can monitor their progress.
In 2013, Dark Daily reported on the increase in employee wellness programs across corporations. Medical laboratories and pathology groups found new opportunities to help with wellness monitoring, screening, and helping individuals through medical consultations.
Three years later, this trend continues to evolve and grow. Today, employers are going beyond simple wellness programs, creating on-site or near-site clinics to save their employees a trip to their local doctor, urgent care, or hospital.
Despite questions about the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) excise tax, businesses are continuing to increase the number of services and level of care offered at on-site clinics. As this expansion continues, so will the potential opportunities for outside service providers to fill demand and provide services.
On-site Healthcare Brings Benefits to Both Employers and Employees
In a 2015, Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a global advisory, broking, and solutions company, conducted a survey that polled 137 U.S. employers representing 4.6-million employees. Willis determined that 75% of employers found that investing in on-site clinics helped to boost productivity. Two-thirds found on-site clinics an ideal way to increase access to affordable healthcare for their employees.
In an article published in Modern Healthcare, Franck LaBiche, Human Resources Director of Laitram Machinery near New Orleans, discussed why his company invested in on-site services for their employees. “Employee visits to hospital emergency rooms have dropped 26% since 2010,” LaBiche noted, “and nearly 8 in 10 workers have seen improvement on at least one measure of health, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, or body fat percentage.”
On-site Healthcare Likely to Continue Trending
Comprehensive studies into the impact of employer-based healthcare is scarce. However, the Willis Towers Watson survey noted that businesses measuring the ROI of their services have increased more than 25% since 2012. Yet, despite the data to back up performance claims, only 2% of polled businesses plan to scale back the number of centers in operation. More than one-third of businesses plan to increase on-site clinic access by 2018. Two-thirds of the businesses polled plan to expand their list of services, according to the Willis survey.
Another survey from benefits consultant Mercer aligns with the trend. Polling 134 businesses with 5,000 or more employees, the Mercer survey found a 6% increase in the number of employers offering on-site or near-site clinics.
On-site Healthcare Offers Clinical Laboratories New Opportunities
While growth alone is a potential opportunity for clinical laboratories and diagnostic service providers, a new trend is forming that may offer another round of opportunities as well.
The Willis survey notes that although the majority (64%) of employers hire commercial vendors to run their on-site clinics, a growing number of employers are choosing to work with local or regional provider groups instead. Between 2012 and 2015 this number rose 14%.
On-site clinics managing chronic conditions and diseases also rose across the same period by 29%. This is a prime opportunity for pathology groups and clinical laboratories, as they are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between hospitals and on-site clinics by consolidating information and helping to form personalized treatment plans, organize screening routines, and help employers to optimize their offerings based on the health needs of their workforce.
Clinical Labs Can Work with Vendors to Capitalize on On-site Healthcare Trend
An even larger opportunity might be found for clinical laboratories and other specialists willing to team up with their biggest competitors—the vendors dominating the on-site healthcare market.
In an article published in Becker’s Hospital Review, Mike La Penna, founder of The La Penna Group, stated, “A hospital may consider if there’s a very aggressive vendor in the community [and] partnering with the vendor, because it’s out there doing the sales job that the hospital may not be equipped to do.”
Because the majority of employers cite “convenient access” as a leading reason for developing on-site options, local medical laboratories and providers offer accessibility—along with an ability to tailor services to the needs of the employee population—that most national providers find difficult to match.