Despite heightened employer interest in workplace clinics as a cost-containment tool, only 4 percent of American families in 2010 reported visiting a workplace clinic in the previous year—the same proportion as in 2007, according to a new national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) for the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Institute for Health Care Reform (NIHCR).
Workplace clinics are concentrated among large, self-insured employers, so only a subset of families has access to these resources. Among families most likely to have access—those with ties to large firms and government employers—clinic use was higher at nearly 11 percent in 2010, the study found.
“The severe 2007-09 recession likely dampened employer investment in workplace clinics, and some workers probably lost access to clinics because of job layoffs,” said Ellyn R. Boukus, M.A., HSC health research analyst, and coauthor of the study with HSC Senior Researcher Ha T. Tu, M.P.A.
The study was based on HSC’s 2010 Health Tracking Household Survey, a nationally representative survey with information on 17,000 people. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the survey included a cell phone sample to account for the growing number of households without a landline phone. Response rates were 45 percent for the landline sample and 29 percent for the cell phone sample.
The study”s findings are detailed in a new NIHCR Research Brief—U.S. Families’ Use of Workplace Health Clinics, 2007-2010—available here.
Other key findings include:
- While most experts believe workplace clinics can best achieve cost savings through better prevention and early diagnosis of chronic conditions, the study found that clinic users most commonly sought vaccinations and other minor, routine services instead of care for chronic conditions.
- When asked the primary purpose of their clinic visits, 63.7 percent of survey respondents in 2010 cited vaccinations—by far the highest prevalence for any clinic service. From 2007 to 2010, the proportion of people citing vaccinations increased by 15.1 percentage points—a surge in demand that may be related to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.
- Overall, nearly seven in 10 people cited convenience as a major reason for choosing a workplace clinic over other care settings. By far the most common response (63.6%) was that the location was more convenient, 35.1 percent noted that clinic hours were more convenient and 26.8 percent cited not having to make an appointment.
- Nearly four in 10 clinic users cited lower cost as motivation for choosing a workplace clinic over another source of care.
- Workplace clinic use was highest among families with workers employed in the manufacturing sector. Nearly 17 percent of such families reported using a workplace clinic in the previous year, according to estimates from combined 2007 and 2010 survey data.