Patricia Chaney

Should Your Business Offer In-Office Doctors’ Appointments?

Doctors’ appointments can be a hassle, in part because of the cost and in part because going to see a doctor on a weekday can mean missing work. The average appointment involves 37 minutes of travel time and over an hour spent in the waiting room — all for an appointment that lasts, on average, 20 minutes.

It’s no surprise that many people skip checkups and other medical services instead of taking time off work. That’s why some offices have chosen to implement in-office doctors’ appointments, allowing employees to trim the fat from the process of receiving medical care and be proactive about their health without making a trade-off. Participating employers may be able to help employees maintain their health and lower the company’s health costs. But is this benefit right for you?

What’s Driving the Trend?

The idea of in-office doctors’ appointments isn’t new. Industries like health care have offered clinics for work-related injuries and general health and safety. But today’s trends are more focused on wellness, disease management and minor illnesses.

Chronic diseases are one of the primary drivers of health care costs. They require frequent management, and for many people a yearly checkup probably won’t cut it. If your employees aren’t currently taking off a lot of time to seek medical care, consider costs that could be coming down the road. If your employees develop and poorly manage diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and a range of other conditions, they generally end up using more medical services in the long run, and that translates to higher health costs and more time missed from work overall.

Bringing a medical professional into the office improves employees’ access to care, whether they’re trying to manage a chronic condition or prevent getting one.

How Can a Small Business Offer This Service?

Traditionally, on-site clinics tend to be offered at companies with 5,000 or more employees. But that’s changing as more affordable approaches emerge. If you’re considering introducing an on-site clinic, think about how you’d arrange it to work best for your business. A large employer might prefer to hire its own clinic staff, but a smaller company could find a better bang for its buck working with a third party. Would you like to limit your clinic to a nurse or physician assistant, or do you think your employees would benefit from having access to counselors and physical therapists? Do you want the clinic to be open during all business hours or limited to just part of the week or workday?

Having even a small clinic might still sound like a lot to manage. Here are three ideas that can help lighten the load.

  1. Pool your resources. A group of local small businesses may work together to provide a centrally located clinic that serves the employees of the group. For one small business in Indiana, partnering with the local city government gave its clinic enough employee usage to stay open two days a week; a potential partnership with an additional small business would mean staying open a third day. The company has seen a stark decline in annual costs per employee, making the clinic more than just an employee perk.
  2. Set up on-site doctors’ visits. Instead of building a dedicated clinic, look for local hospitals, retail clinics and physician practices who can come to your office to provide biometric screenings, risk assessments or flu shots for your employees. These medical professionals can let employees know if a health concern warrants further treatment, discouraging employees from seeking out expensive medical services they don’t need — or skipping treatments they do.
  3. Offer telemedicine benefits. Another trend toward efficiency in health care, telemedicine simply means connecting with a doctor remotely, often by video conference. Virtual visits reduce the logistical headache of getting to and from the doctor’s office. They can also lead to faster treatment when employees get sick and provide them easier access to specialists, including mental health professionals. Consider offering a private space at work for employees without reliable internet access at home to schedule an appointment.

As health costs continue to climb, employers are exploring new ways to control spending and keep their employees healthy. If offering in-office doctors’ appointments sounds daunting, don’t be afraid to start small. It all comes down to improving life for your employees and your business — and luckily, the doctor is in.

Stay up to date on the latest health care regulations and trends for your small business: Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.