Large employers are increasingly likely to provide on-site or near-site medical clinics for employees, and for good reasons. Among them: they’re cost-effective.

Mercer recently reported that in 2017, 33% of U.S. employers with at least 5,000 workers offered at least one such clinic for general medical services. That was up from 24% in 2012 and 17% in 2007, according to Mercer’s most recent National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans.

An even greater proportion of employers of that size, 38%, offered a clinic for occupational health services.

The prevalence of large companies providing a clinic for general medical services could jump dramatically in 2019. An additional 11% of survey participants said they may start up such a clinic next year.

A smaller proportion (16%) of companies with 500 to 4,999 employees provided a general-services clinic in 2017.

These offerings range in scale from a single nurse to comprehensive medical homes. But regardless of their scope, companies see them as good investments — even if they can’t always quantify the return.

In fact, in a new survey of 121 employers focused strictly on worksite medical clinics, conducted by Mercer and the National Association of Worksite Health Centers (NAWHC), more than half (54%) of participants said their companies have not attempted to measure the return on investment.

Doing so is a challenge for most employers, according to the survey report.

“It requires an objective methodology and comprehensive data aggregation for calculating savings from various sources, such as medical, pharmacy, [absenteeism], and worker’s compensation, as well as an accurate accounting of the clinic’s implementation and operating costs,” the report said.

However, among participants whose companies have calculated an ROI for their clinics, 85% reported a positive return, and 62% said the gain was equal to at least 50% of each dollar invested.

Indeed, controlling health-care spending was identified as the single most important reason for operating a clinic.

Larry Boress, NAWHC

Asked to rate various motivations, 89% of survey respondents said that was an “important” or “very important” objective. By comparison, 84% said reducing employee health risks was an important or very important objective, followed by reducing absenteeism (76%) and increasing employee productivity (75%).

Employer-sponsored medical clinics generate savings because they are “not driven by the need to generate volume and fees,” says Larry Boress, executive director of the NAWHC. The clinics also address wide variations in cost and quality among local health-care providers.

“Given high rates of employee satisfaction and utilization, I think we will continue to see growth in offerings of clinics and expansion of the health services that clinics provide,” says David Keyt, Mercer’s group leader for worksite clinics consulting.

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