Friday, October 06, 2006
Field Hospitals For Cubicle Combatants
I've long known that the corporate world was a primal battleground, red in tooth and claw. Dodging from one bad boss to the next, it's taken all the courage and agility at my disposal to escape the careening shrapnel of an impending cerebral hemorrhage. But now, maybe there is hope that I might survive to retirement after all...
Although on-site medical care has been available at factories and other blue collar workplaces for generations, white collar workers have traditionally needed to find their doctors elsewhere. That is rapidly changing. To reduce health care costs - as well as to cut down on employee absences due to doctor's office visits - about 22 percent of major corporations have in-house clinics, and another 5 percent intend to establish such clinics by next year. These clinics make their services available to employees at little or no extra cost, but they are not intended to replace health insurance - just supplement it in a fashion that will result in savings for all concerned.
One corporation, Discovery Communications, Inc., established and outfitted its own clinic at a cost of $200,000, but that initial outlay has generated $500,000 in savings annually. Because the clinic's doctors can utilize facilities provided by the corporation, their overhead is far less than it would be otherwise, and they can charge just $153 for a physical rather than the going rate of $243.
The ultimate savings, according to Discovery's executives, are both "definable and intangible". By making visits to the doctor so affordable and convenient, employees go more often, resulting in earlier detection and more effective treatment of medical conditions. That spells better health all around, which reduces sick days and increases productivity, not to mention heading off heavy-duty health insurance claims incurred by ignoring symptoms until disaster strikes.
In addition to physical exams, corporate clinics can provide gynecological exams, blood tests, nutritional counseling and emergency first aid. The host corporation does not employ the doctors and nurses who work at their clinics, but instead outsources them from other corporations that specialize in clinic services - such as Whole Health Management and CHD Meridian Healthcare.
This sounds like a great idea - the rare positive offshoot of the perennial corporate impulse to save on bucks. My only qualm is that employees would have little choice in the staff employed by the clinic. Then, too, there is that age-old skepticism about the quality of captive medicos. Remember what they used to say about ships' doctors?
"Doctor in the cubicle" from HeraldNet