Workplace clinics: All good

A Wall Street Journal piece (The Office Nurse Now Treats Diabetes, Not Headaches) notes the benefits of workplace clinics but also emphasizes the potential downside of loss of privacy or employer intrusion into the personal lives of employees. The ever-skeptical Deborah Peel is trotted out to lay out an Orwellian scenario.

Workplace clinics address the big, big issues of access and convenience, and do so in ways that align the interests of employers and employees. It’s a hassle to get an appointment at a doctor’s office. Even when you have an appointment it takes time to get there and waits can be long. It almost always means time off from work. Onsite clinics are set up to be convenient and to respect the value of employees’ time. The employers are the customers. They care about time away from work and access to care. They also generally are interested in evidence based medicine, consistency, and patient safety. All of those things benefit the employee.

It can be difficult for even well-educated, well-insured people to navigate the health care system, and partially as a result there are many people walking around with conditions that they are neglecting. This example from the article struck me as a good one:

John Martin, an accounts-payable specialist at Hanesbrands, visited the company clinic in January after leaving his Type 2 diabetes untreated for seven years. Tests confirmed that the 53-year-old’s blood sugar was high and that he also suffered from hypertension. Clinic nurse practitioners put Mr. Martin on medication for both conditions and arranged for free or discounted pills. A CHS health coach helped him lose 25 pounds in two months through dietary changes and an exercise program.

“This has made me change the way I live my life,” Mr. Martin said of the clinic.

This kind of intervention is a positive thing for all involved. I know I’d be more likely to want to work for a company offering this sort of support.

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