Transforming a Traditional Occupational Health Center into a Total Employee Health Cost Containment Center

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Transforming a Traditional Occupational Health Center into a Total Employee Health Cost Containment Center

So let's say you are the CFO for a manufacturing company and have had an onsite occupational health center for years, maybe decades. To date, you have only realized a limited financial benefit from this center related to workers' compensation and disability. You talk to your HR folks and ask them if the center can be used for non-occupational employee health issues.


They tell you the center does not fall under their jurisdiction; it falls under safety and security. The safety and security director has no idea if this is possible. What should the CFO do now? Well, it turns out that this CFO is on to something here.


Employers with occupational health centers have an enormous opportunity to leverage these centers to drive significantly greater savings focused on total employee health cost containment.However, the ability to realize these gains requires a major transformation of these facilities and their services from strictly occupational health centers to population health management centers.


A successful transformation program must effectively satisfy the following three elements:

Part 1 - Embedding wellness into the occupational health services

Part 2 - Building a population health management system

Part 3 - Integrating occupational and non-occupational health services

Part A - As demonstrated by many research papers, such as the "Duke Study", general health issues such as obesity, arthritis and asthma can negatively impact work-related injury and illness prevalence within a population. Through the introduction of wellness into traditional occupational health services, an employer can reduce the incidence of work-related injuries and illnesses.


A successful transformation program must provide a method to embed targeted wellness protocols and services into an occupational health clinic. And it should be done in a way that offers both preventative and incident-related benefits for an employer. The end result is a decrease in disability and workers' compensation claims.

Part B - Building a population health management system is the second step. Population health management consists of the following capabilities:

a)    Acute, ambulatory care

b)    Population risk stratification (gaps in care analysis)

c)    Chronic medical care (medical home model)

d)    Price transparency and patient advocacy

e)    Wellness services

To effectively introduce all of these capabilities, the transformation team needs to provide the occupational health staff with comprehensive training and IT systems necessary to manage the health of the entire population. The transition team usually consists of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, software engineers, trainers and health coaches.


The goal is to train the existing medical staff on the new services. However, frequently, additional medical staff may be necessary. The end result is a re-engineered medical center that can now address all of the medical needs of the population and drive significant cost savings on total health claims.

Part C - There are numerous crossovers between occupational health and population health management services. As such, integration of these two services offers enormous potential for further improvement in employee health and cost savings. Though the division of these services needs to be maintained for certain legal and regulatory issues, there must be a way for both services to communicate and work collectively.

To this end, the transformation team must create a comprehensive set of protocols to allow this communication to occur, thus enhancing the effectiveness of both services. The protocols need to ensure that the employer continues to comply with both legal and regulatory requirements.


Now patients with occupational health issues exacerbated by medical issues will have a center that can simultaneously address both issues, leading to improved employee health and decreased claims for the employer. Following the transformation, the re-engineered health center requires oversight and management to ensure its effectiveness.


This may be satisfied with an internal medical team or a third-party worksite vendor. Functions of the team assigned to oversight include quality control, medical director chart reviews, medical home model supervision, data analytics services, price transparency and patient advocacy management, privacy and security audits, occupational health audits, and short-term disability review.


In summary, employers with onsite occupational health centers are well positioned to transform these centers into total population health management centers that offer much greater financial upside. The potential benefit to employers is not only decreased workers' compensation and disability claims, but also a powerful cost containment tool for employee healthcare claims.


The total healthcare cost savings are typically five to tenfold greater than savings from occupational health-related matters. Successfully executing this transformation requires an effective transformation team that can embed wellness into the occupational health services, build a population health management system and integrate occupational and non-occupational health services.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JONATHAN SPERO, M.D. is a thought leader in the field of ROI driven worksite health centers and targeted employee wellness programs. InHouse Physicians is a global employee health and wellness provider delivering innovative cost containment solutions to corporations around the world.


InHouse Physicians high touch employee health services include a wide range of offerings such as cost effective worksite health centers, evidence based "pre-disease" wellness initiatives, health screenings plus analytics, flu vaccinations, and travel medicine. To learn more about InHouse Physicians visit their website at www.inhousephysicians.com or Dr. Spero can be reached at jspero@ihphysicians.com.