The 4,000 BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee workers moving to the company’s new Cameron Hill headquarters in January no longer will have to take time off work to pick up a prescription or get a sinus infection checked out.
The state’s largest health insurer is including an on-site pharmacy and a health clinic, staffed by nurse practitioners, in its new development in downtown Chattanooga, part of a $299 million construction project.
IN COMING DAYS
Saturday: The reforestation of Cameron Hill with native plants is under way.
Dec. 18: Wellness initiatives are becoming common at companies.
“Since the earliest days of our plans to move to Cameron Hill, we had dreams of having some on-site medical facilities,” said Ron Harr, senior vice president of human resources and public affairs. “We just knew how important and convenient that would be to our employees to help them improve their state of health.”
Part of an overall focus on wellness for the company’s employees, BlueCross is leasing space to CVS Caremark to run the pharmacy. Employees will get discounts on their prescription drugs, which will contribute to almost $500,000 in annual savings for the company in prescription costs, Mr. Harr said.
The health clinic, which will be run by work force health management company Comprehensive Health Services, requires an initial investment of about $560,000, Mr. Harr said. But officials expect to get that back quickly, he said.
Research from CHS suggests that employers usually recover their initial investment in about a year and a half, said Stuart Clark, executive vice president at CHS, which has been running on-site health centers since the early 1990s.
Those initial savings largely are from increased worker productivity and lack of lost time at work. When workers don’t have to take time off to get a sinus infection checked out, they can get more done, Mr. Harr said.
Less predictable are potential long-term savings from improvements in employee health, but BlueCross officials are optimistic they will see significant gains. Particularly for workers with conditions that require regular maintenance, such as diabetes and heart disease, convenient access to a health professional and pharmacy could improve health outcomes, he said.
HEALTH AND PRODUCTIVITY
For BlueCross employee LaTosha Braden, who works in customer service, missing work to get treatment for her allergies and sinus problems had become a regular occurrence. She expects that to change when she moves to Cameron Hill.
“My own personal response is it’s a great idea,” she said. “I’ve had to take off work in the last month to go to the doctor. (The on-site nurse will) keep us from calling in so much to work to go to the doctor just for small things like a sinus infection or cough.”
On-site clinics increasingly are popular among large employers, said Mr. Clark of CHS.
Nationwide now there are about 500 outsourced on-site medical facilities, 100 of which are run by CHS, he said.
Until recently, a typical year brought the company seven or eight requests from employers interested in putting in their own health clinics, but for the past two years CHS has been seeing on average four requests a month, he said.
“It is no longer considered experimental. It is considered a mainstream solution” to cutting employee health costs, he said.
Mr. Harr emphasized that BlueCross understands that a convenient care clinic cannot take the place of the kind of comprehensive health care that comes from having a primary care physician.
“We want to make sure the physician community knows this is in no way designed to be a replacement for our employees’ primary care physician network. It’s there to augment that, to make it easy for them,” Mr. Harr said.
Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...