Employer Healthcare Strategies


How Onsite Clinics are Impacting the American Healthcare System

Posted by Jeremy Cavness on January 23, 2015

How Onsite Clinics are Changing the American Healthcare System | Jeremy Cavness | Employer Healthcare Strategies blog by CareATC, Inc.The recent emergence of onsite clinics as a "popular" solution to rising health care costs has allowed employers, large and small, to enhance their employee health plans without disrupting the overall design. More surprising though, the rapid growth in these "member only" facilities may be having an indirect (and positive) impact on the entire health care system. 

Onsite clinic infancy wasn't that long ago. Early on, innovators setup the clinics to help boost productivity, and to better manage the occupational health needs of their workforce. By keeping employees closer to work for health care, employers were able to get more for their money. And then onsite clinics grew up a little bit. 

The Evolution of Onsite Clinics: A Quick Recap

In the early 2000's, when rising health care costs began outpacing inflation and wages, most employers were unaware of the impact it would have on their bottom line, or worse, how to deal with it. As a result, organizations were freely absorbing the bulk of the financial consequence while they rushed to find a good solution. And then the light bulb came on. 

The value proposition for onsite clinics evolved from acute care to preventive care. Participating employers and clinic vendors quickly discovered that by providing high quality preventive health care, in addition to acute and urgent care, the health and risk profile of the entire working population, and its associated costs, could be positively influenced. Onsite clinic providers began placing heavy emphasis on disease management and health coaching as workforce health and wellness became a strategic priority.

Onsite Clinic Value Drivers

Today, onsite clinics are considered an innovative and proven approach to health care cost containment. Data regarding health outcomes and cost savings is outstanding and looks to benefit employers, employees, and clinic vendors for both the immediate and distant future. Onsite clinics have come a long way since the early days and now aim to utilize big data, IT, wellness programs, and aggressive marketing to expand their value and reach.  

CareATC® onsite clinics can provide outstanding value for employers, including:

  • Better population risk management
  • Reduction in ER and specialty referrals
  • Reduction in large claims
  • Proper incentive structure for medical providers
  • Lower cost clinic visits
  • Lower cost clinic ancillaries
  • Narrowed referral networks
  • Increased compliance
  • Improved productivity
  • and more...

Expanded Impact of Onsite Clinics

Members of onsite clinics may not be the only ones benefiting from their unique offerings. These clinics have the potential to impact the American health care system in ways that haven't yet been discussed. Here are 4:

1. Improved Access for Everyone

One of the biggest value drivers of onsite clinics is the ability they have to remove the barriers that prevent employees from seeking care when they need it. By simply improving access to care, employers are seeing huge improvements in the health status of their workforce. 

These same clinics, however, look to be improving access for more people than just its members. By removing its participants from the traditional fee-for-service system, employers are indirectly creating more availability for the 8 million new participants in the health care exchange. This is undoubtedly good for everyone. 

2. Incentive for More Primary Care Doctors

It isn't a coincidence that at the same time 8 million new people join the health care exchange, the number of physicians available to care for these individuals dropped rapidly. The Associate of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2020 there will be shortage of almost 100,000 physicians.

Among other things like lower pay, longer hours, and misaligned bonus structures, medical students are simply not excited about the idea of rushing an unreasonable number of patients through in order to meet quotas. 

In contrast, onsite clinics provide a landscape in which primary care physicians actually desire to work in. Longer and more focused appointments, aggressive salaries, set schedules, and incentives based on health outcomes are just some of the benefits that onsite providers receive. It's possible that, with the increasing demand for onsite clinics, we'll see a resurgence of interest in the concentration of primary care medicine.

3. Less Demand Equals Lower Costs

There are easily a hundred reasons why health care costs have risen so rapidly over the last 20 years, with perhaps the most fundamental being the law of supply and demand. The more tacos that we demand, the more a taco will cost. The same is true with health care, except that it's 1,000x more expensive. 

Somewhere between 1980 and 2000, Americans began treating their health insurance like a debit card. Whenever the severity of their health issues outweighed the hassles involved, they'd show up, swipe, and hopefully feel better. As intervention became better and more reliable, the incentive to take a preventive approach to health flat out disappeared, and with it reasonable costs.

Because onsite clinics do business directly with employers, the majority of the nation's population is considered a potential user. If onsite clinics continue to prove the value they have over the last 10 years, they'll easily reach their full potential. Once that happens, the demand for care on main street will plummet. And like oil production lately, when supply outweighs demand, prices come back to earth. 

4. Better Care, Less Illness, & Lower Costs

Without backtracking too much, I want to re-emphasize access. I recently interviewed Mike LaPenna, Principal of the LaPenna Group, who is widely considered a thought leader in the arena of onsite clinics. He stated that "It's often not well understood or talked about, but one of the most critical issues for employers is simply providing better access to primary care." (You can download the full interview here.)

Better access simply means better care. And better care results in less illness. In a broad sense, the more employers continue to invest in better care, i.e. onsite clinics, the less contagious the general population might be. What's great is that this assumption doesn't require any evidence. It's common knowledge that washing your hands helps prevent the flu from spreading. 

By improving access and care, the prevalence of acute illness will decline, thus reducing the number of participants in the fee-for-service medical system. The result? Less demand and lower costs. 


While some of this may be far off, it certainly isn't out of reach. As long as outcomes and savings remain strong, direct primary care and onsite clinics will continue to grow in popularity, which could have a positive effect on the US health care system as a whole. 

Jeremy Cavness

About The Author

Jeremy Cavness

Jeremy is a former CareATC marketing team member.

Post Topics On-Site Medical Clinics, Health Reform