State chiropractic associations are helping DCs connect with businesses and multidisciplinary medicine
IN AN EVER-MORE-COMPLICATED HEALTH CARE WORLD, EMPLOYERS ARE GETTING INVOLVED TO REDUCE COSTS AND HELP THEIR EMPLOYEES. Three giant companies — Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase — are working to create a multidisciplinary medicine independent health care company for their U.S. workers. Their decision to form the ambitious partnership shows how frustrated and concerned employers have become about health care — and how they believe they can make a difference.
But unless you’re the size of Amazon, what can a company or a local health care provider do?
There are several reasons for this conclusion, but no matter how you look at it, changes to the health care landscape are increasing the demand for quality patient care that is affordable, effective and efficient.
DCs have an opportunity to be on the forefront of health care innovation. DCs are uniquely positioned to help address the growing opioid crisis, skyrocketing health care costs, generally poor allopathic management of musculoskeletal injuries, and the impact of chronic pain. DCs are also well-positioned to serve the growing segment of informed patients seeking effective alternatives to costly medical interventions.
Recently, chiropractic has jumped into the search for solutions. Across the country, chiropractors in big cities and small towns have approached local employers about opening on-site health clinics to provide care for employees. The care is usually offered free and on work time with the blessing — even the encouragement — of management.
Employees are demonstrating that they’ll use health care when they can afford it and can access it. Employers are learning that their workers benefit from health care in a preventative way, addressing small issues such as aches and pains before they become bigger, more expensive and cause time away from work.
It turns out that chiropractic is ideally suited for on-site multidisciplinary medicine clinics. Chiropractic clinics don’t require expensive equipment or build-outs inside corporate offices or on factory floors. In addition, chiropractic advice is often exactly what employees need to treat and prevent injuries, especially where workers are performing physical activity or repetitive motion.
Nationally, several for-profit and nonprofit entities have dived into the work of on-site clinics. A study by Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU) in Bloomington, Minn., showed companies and their employees could save $8 for every $1 that they invested in on-site clinics. The savings came from:
- An 88% reduction in direct worker’s compensation costs to employers;
- A 67% reduction in the average cost of health care, with elements covered by employers and employees;
- A 63% reduction specifically in rates of sprain and strain injuries, which are common in many production and warehousing facilities.
Subsequent research with more employers in different industries found that a more conservative estimate of the savings was $4 for every $1 invested. But that’s still substantial — and a better deal than almost any option available.
Research by NWHSU also showed anecdotal benefits among employees. Workers felt a stronger attachment to their employer when they saw the company investing in their health. They reported wanting to stay with their companies, and their day-to-day productivity increased.
Benefits to all
Because the benefits of workplace clinics are so great, they offer substantial opportunity for the chiropractic profession, said Chad Henriksen, DC, a chiropractor and a researcher in ergonomics and biomechanics at NWHSU. Henriksen also is director of the university’s on-site program, called WorkSiteRight.
“Health care is a huge concern for employers, and many feel that costs are simply out of their control,” Henriksen said. “But we’ve seen consistent results with our on-site clinic work, developed with scientific research and backing. Employers not only can control health care costs but also can reduce them and enjoy the benefits of healthier, happier and more productive workers.”
The work also is an ideal fit for chiropractors, Henriksen believes.
“This is what many of us wanted to do when we chose health care as a profession,” he said. “It’s not a stretch to say on-site clinics provide a whole new opportunity for growth for our profession.”
Clinics help company recruiting
Fairmont Homes President Brian Cira oversees manufactured homes plants in Montevideo, Minn., and Nappanee, Ind., that have started on-site clinics. He said they have been so popular that they have helped the company recruit in a tight employment market.
“We want our employees to go home and tell their friends and family that they work at a good place,” he said. “A happier person, a healthier person — it’s good for them but also good for us.”
At Friendship Homes in Montevideo, production supervisor Branden Clausen said: “The unexpected part of the program has been the general willingness to join. I’ve noticed more of my guys who have been here longer-term are taking advantage of the program and using it the right way. They’re taking care of their bodies. I have a couple of guys in the cabinet shop who are looking at 10 more years of work before they retire. They’re looking to go get loosened up by the doctor every day so they can go back out there and work.”
The Iowa Chiropractic Society has partnered with NWHSU to help the 1,200 chiropractors throughout that state approach local employers about multidisciplinary medicine and start on-site clinics.
“Our society has identified on-site wellness as a strategic priority,” said Molly Lopez, the society’s executive director. “We want to make sure our doctors know this opportunity is available to them, their patients and their communities. These are their neighbors, people who sit next to them in church and friends who participate in community activities. Our doctors want to keep them healthy and happy.”
ROB KARWATH is a former newspaper and TV reporter and editor who is president and CEO of North Coast Communications. One of his clients is Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minn. For information about the university’s WorkSiteRight program, contact Chad Henriksen at 952-807-9824 or firstname.lastname@example.org.