Occupational health is a critical component of profitable businesses. But despite employees being a company’s greatest resource, on a global scale, only 10 to 15% of workers have access to occupational medicine (OccMed).1
In retail and manufacturing industries, injury rates are currently 3.1% among U.S. workers.2 And while both industries see roughly the same rates and types of injuries, they also face unique risks, such as machinery-related injuries for manufacturing workers and violence-related injuries for retail workers. As a result, large employers increasingly offer employer-sponsored OccMed clinics, and some offer more comprehensive primary care and wellness programs.
But as offerings expand and retail and manufacturing companies increase their investments in a broad array of occupational medicine initiatives, it’s also necessary to incentivize workers to use these clinics. Simply mandating their use may be viewed as a way to cut corners on care (rather than reduce costs) or take ownership of employee health data.
Below, we’ll take a look at the incentives offered by employers to encourage retail and manufacturing workers to utilize these facilities and all of their resources.
The Current State of Employer-Sponsored OccMed Clinics
According to the 2021 Worksite Health Center Report from Mercer and the National Association of Worksite Health Centers (NAWHC), 28% of manufacturing companies and 14% of retailers offer OccMed clinics. But company-owned clinics were more likely to offer an array of primary care (31% of manufacturing companies and 25% of retailers).3
The expansion of care may be in part due to expanding definitions of health and wellness to include the social determinants of health. But in Mercer’s survey, employers’ top reasons for opening clinics were improving access to quality care, improving employee productivity, and attracting and retaining employees. Regardless of how a clinic is set up (on-site or near-site, employer managed or contracted to a healthcare system), these clinics carry high up-front costs, which can only be recouped if employees take advantage of them.
Clinic utilization rates averaged 52% for employees in 2020 (only slightly down from 53% in 2019, despite the pandemic).4
So, how can employers in retail and manufacturing improve those numbers?
Expanding Clinic Services
The workplace is a critical factor in both physical and mental health, but it’s only part of the picture.5 While employers in retail and manufacturing cannot mandate employee behavior off the clock, they benefit from providing resources to encourage healthy habits, especially in light of the mental health crises and increases in substance abuse seen globally in light of the pandemic.6
By expanding clinic services to move beyond treatments for injuries, illnesses, and exposures on the job, employer-sponsored OccMed clinics can help improve long-term employee health. This is particularly the case in manufacturing, where supply chain issues have put tremendous stress on workers at all levels, as well as in retail, where employees are constantly subjected to public backlash regarding changing mask mandates and social distancing regulations.
In 2020, healthcare spending decreased because people deferred care of all kinds. Now it’s time to face the health consequences of those actions, and the money saved in 2020 may be able to fund more comprehensive care in 2022 and beyond.
Expanding Clinic Access to Employees’ Families
According to the International Labor Organization, inadequate occupational health measures have “profound negative effects” on workers and families.7 Caregiving needs and out-of-pocket expenses can have life-changing economic consequences. In addition, occupational injuries can cause severe psychological distress in workers, affecting the nature of family life.8
Because of the effects of occupational health on families and the lure that comprehensive healthcare provides to workers in retail and manufacturing, one option employers are pursuing is expanding access to their clinics to include employees’ partners and children. Mercer found that only 40% of employers limit clinic use to employees only, while 59% allow domestic partners and 49% allow children to utilize clinic services, reducing a significant financial burden for families of retail and manufacturing workers.
Financial Incentives for R&M OccMed Clinics
Aside from saving money on health care by allowing families to use clinics, employers are offering more financial incentives, particularly if they expand their offerings to include primary care services for retail and manufacturing workers.
While employer-sponsored clinics can reduce a company’s healthcare insurance payouts, employees don’t directly see those benefits. Instead, employers are offering direct incentives, including:
- Choice of the clinic as a primary care provider (71%)
- No copayment (53%)
- Reduced copayment (18%)
- Reduction in employee premium contribution (12%)
- The clinic as an in-network insurance plan option (10%)9
Making Employer-Sponsored Clinics the Convenient Option
There are many more ways to make employer-sponsored clinics the most convenient option for employees, thereby increasing their utilization of these resources. For example, longer hours of operation help ensure fewer trips to the ER. According to Mercer, three-quarters of clinics are open 40 hours a week, and one-third are open longer; 84% are open before or after work hours, and 82% are open during employee breaks. In addition, in 2021, 78% of clinics offered telehealth options. This can be crucial to retail and manufacturing workers who do not work typical 9-5 hours.
Because wait times at clinics cost both employers and employees money and disproportionately affect those in retail and manufacturing positions that pay by the hour, employers can make their clinics more attractive by ensuring they meet demand and reduce wait times. Most are successful, as 56% of clinics report an average wait time of 5 minutes or less, and only 4% have wait times longer than 10 minutes.10
Leveraging Technology for Better Clinic Access
New software tools can help make clinics more efficient and improve employee access. Online and mobile appointment scheduling has allowed most clinics to schedule patients no more than two days out, and 78% of clinics provide a patient portal that employees can also use for accessing their records, ordering medications, securely emailing providers, and processing payments.
Technology may be one of the significant factors in improving access and knowledge about occupational health and other wellness resources. As employers capitalize on the power of new software tools, they are now turning to companies that can offer the best privacy tools to protect their employees’ information.11
Learn more in our new ebook below.
Considerations for Retail & Manufacturing Companies Looking To Start A Successful OccMed Clinic
1 The British Journal of General Practice, “Primary Health Care: What Role For Occupational Health?” 2012.
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Incidence Rates of Nonfatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses by Industry and Case Types, 2020,” 2021.
3-4 Mercer, “Worksite Health Centers: 2021 Report,” 2022.
5 Forbes, “What Employers Need To Know About Social Determinants Of Health,” April 24, 2001.
6 Pricewaterhouse Coopers, “Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2022,” 2022.
7 Industrial Health, “The Socio-Economic Impact of Occupational Diseases and Injuries,” September 2013.
8 Journal of Safety Research “Occupational Injury and Psychological Distress Among U.S. Workers: The National Health Interview Survey, 2004-2016,” 2020.
9- 10 Mercer, “Worksite Health Centers: 2021 Report,” 2022.
11 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), “Trends in Workplace Wellness Programs and Evolving Federal Standards,” June 9, 2020.