The doctor is in: Should you have a medical professional on your project team?
The future of the American healthcare system may be uncertain, but employers still have a vested interest in keeping their workers in top shape.
As such, some have taken it upon themselves to make getting adequate care easier — financially and logistically – by providing their employees with free or low-cost medical services at or nearby their office. This goes for construction companies as well, with some setting up temporary clinics at their job sites or hiring healthcare providers to address the range of injuries common among workers in the industry.
Depending on the company, benefits might include standard health screenings, yearly physicals, primary care and physical therapy necessary for a recovering worker's rehab. Some organizations even extend a variety of such services to their employees' families.
For example, medical device company Arthrex provides free on-site medical care at each of its locations, and automotive company JM Family Enterprises also makes available a 24/7 medical hotline for its employees, according to Fortune. The goal for these companies and others is to break down the barriers between workers and the healthcare they need by allowing them to view it in a different way.
"Healthcare has been reactive and is now trying to move toward a proactive strategy," said Scott Goren, director of operations for Mount Laurel, NJ–based Onsite Innovations, a third-party provider of workplace medical service programs and clinics.
A healthier job site
Having medical staff on site, and therefore familiar, could help those uneasy about the prospect of a physical exam feel more comfortable and therefore more likely to schedule a visit. "When it is convenient and a known and trusted party, you break down a lot of barriers," Goren said.
There are other benefits. Harvard Medical School researchers noted in a 2015 report that the average doctor's visit lasts 121 minutes, including travel and wait time, and it costs employees $43 in lost time, which isn't always compensated. On the flip side is the productivity loss for employers. The study found that only 20 minutes of that 121-minute experience is actually spent in consultation with a physician, so it follows that employers would try to recoup some of that lost time.
As with many enterprise-scale investments, large companies are the ones that will see the payback from having a staffed medical clinic on site, according to Marc Lion, partner at New York City–based accounting and consulting firm Mazars. But those companies shouldn't expect to make a profit on the clinic. Rather, he said, it serves as an additional benefit for employees, and one that could lead to increased productivity.
State rules governing healthcare also factor in. New York, for example, lets employers own clinic space and equipment, but a licensed physician must own the actual health practice, meaning companies can't run the clinic themselves, Lion said.
The ability to provide employees with a hassle-free experience, he said, is what makes third-party providers so attractive to many employers. "There are all sorts of compliance regulations and rules. It's easy to get caught up or overlook something you need to address. [A company] should engage healthcare professionals who do this often."
Knowing the laws
Understanding the rules and regulations is particularly important when treating workers' compensation injuries, an area of medical practice on which third-party providers like Onsite Innovations focus. For example, Onsite Innovations has a worksite presence on construction projects ranging from $75 million to $25 billion in value, and its staff can treat injured workers or refer them to specialists and then make sure they're following the medical professional's orders when they return to the job.
Some states forbid employers from deciding where an employee can seek medical attention for an injury, said Julian Alexander, chairman and CEO of Onsite Physio, a Jacksonville, FL–based provider of worksite wellness services. According to Alexander, the U.S. is almost evenly split between states that allow employer-directed care and those that do not.
The on-site aspect makes physical therapy services like those provided by Onsite Physio attractive to injured employees, Alexander said. The company provides patient services at the workplace, a convenience for those who have returned to the job but still require treatment. It also makes home visits to those whose injuries prevent them from resuming work.
Goren and Alexander each set aside private space for workplace clinics or one-off appointments. And both companies, as must all licensed healthcare providers, comply with state and local health and building regulations, as well as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires most medical information to be treated as confidential.
Improving job-site training
Even while paying mind to privacy, on-site medical providers are able to share general information based on the injuries they see and suggest updates to a company's training program or expectations, Alexander said. For example, if the clinic notices a high percentage of similar injuries originating from the loading dock, it could recommend to managers that additional training be offered on lifting correctly. This information could also present an opportunity for the employer to put together a post-job-offer physical testing program to make sure employees can meet the requirements of the position.
Such information also comes in handy during physical therapy. The therapist will review common job tasks with the injured employee and show him or her how to carry out those duties safely, Alexander said. While on the job, the therapist also might take time out to show other employees, who are not currently injured, the safest way to carry out their duties.
Medical professionals working in construction site clinics in particular are positioned to observe employee injuries that might otherwise go unnoticed. "They sometimes don't want to report [an injury] because they want to continue working," said Chris Maiello, a division manager for Onsite Innovations.
Being more transparent about workplace injuries and their treatment can benefit the entire project team. "Employer and employee best interests are not mutually exclusive," Goren said.
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