January 30, 2018—At a time when U.S. healthcare costs are soaring, new research by Northwestern Health Sciences University shows companies can save $8 for every $1 they invest in on-site health clinics focused on injury prevention, treatment and education. The new findings are based on more than two years of study with companies nationwide operating manufacturing, construction, assembly and warehouse operations.
The research also indicates a strong likelihood of similar benefits to employers in all industries if they open on-site clinics and make them available to employees during work hours. “The results our researchers have obtained are consistent and replicable for employers in any industry and in any location,” Northwestern President Chris Cassirer said. “At a time when our nation’s health-care system is desperately in need of innovative solutions to protect people’s health and finances, we believe we have found an approach that all employers should consider.”
Northwestern has worked with chiropractors, massage therapists and other health-care practitioners to establish on-site workplace clinics through a program called WorkSiteRight. Health-care professionals are available to employees during the workday at no charge.
Employees can use work time to learn how to prevent injuries in their daily tasks, to receive treatment that addresses aches and pains before they worsen and to work with professionals to maintain their health and wellness.
WorkSiteRight clinic visits typically last 30 to 45 minutes. The $8 in cost savings for every $1 invested has come through:
- An 88 percent reduction in direct worker’s compensation costs to employers
- A 67 percent reduction in the average cost of health care, with elements covered by employers and employees
- A 63 percent reduction specifically in rates of sprain and strain injuries, which are common in many industries
Employers participating in WorkSiteRight research reported 60 percent employee engagement in the program and no negative effects on production rates, even though employees are allowed to use working time to visit the on-site clinics. Employers also reported higher employee morale and a greater ability to attract and retain talent.
“Our employers participating in this research have seen the significant financial benefits of creating on-site clinics, but some of the best outcomes have been stronger overall bonds with their employees,” said WorkSiteRight Director Chad Henriksen, who oversaw the research that has produced the findings.
He added: “With WorkSiteRight, we believe we have developed a national model that can help employers of all kinds achieve their goals of preventing and reducing worker injuries and the costs related to them, as well as supporting efforts to attract and retain a quality workforce. What we have found consistently across the country is that these clinics work and that employees appreciate their employers investing to keep them healthy.”
Two sites where Northwestern has established WorkSiteRight are Cavco Industries Inc.’s Fairmont Homes plant in Nappanee, Ind., and the company’s Friendship Homes plant in Montevideo, Minn.
At both plants, which build manufactured homes, health providers have helped Cavco reduce injuries and costs by providing workers with education, on-site guidance about ergonomic best practices and immediate treatment if they experience issues such as back pain, extremity and muscle strain.
“We want our employees to go home and tell their friends and family that they work at a good place,” said Fairmont Homes President Brian Cira, who also oversees the Friendship Homes plant. “A happier person, a healthier person—it’s good for them but also good for us.”
The research findings come as medical diagnoses and treatment related to lower back and neck pain are estimated to cost $88 billion annually nationwide. Also, new findings by the American College of Physicians have urged non-invasive, non-drug treatments, such as massage and chiropractic, to address back and neck pain and injuries, noting that more aggressive treatments often don’t work or expose patients to the risk of addiction to opioid medications.
In all, workplace productivity lost to employee health issues of all kinds is estimated to cost U.S. employers $225.8 billion annually.
“At a time when health care in our country can seem almost impossible, and impossibly expensive, these new findings by our researchers provide hope,” Cassirer said. “WorkSiteRight clinics are an effective and cost effective way for employers to improve the health of their employees and reduce costs while restoring, maintaining and motivating their employees.”