Dr. Ken’s Corner: The Company Doctor “Is In”

Cutting down on employee absences is a driving force behind the growing popularity of onsite company doctors. “It’s great for patients and for the physicians,” says Dr. Travis Bias of Austin who left private practice to become a company doctor. No longer feeling rushed, Dr. Bias says he now has the time to educate his patients, “the reason I went into family medicine in the first place.”

In an interview published in Texas Medicine (October 2014), Dr. Bias says “the goal is keeping the employees happy and healthy and decreasing their time away from work.” They no longer have to take a half-day off from work to see an outside physician. The company saves money and has a happier, more productive employee. Company doctors report that their income is comparable or higher than being in private practice, at “the higher end of average” for a primary care physician.

Oftentimes the company doctor is the sole provider of health care for company employees, although some employees continue to maintain a relationship with an outside doctor as well. For specialty care, the company doctor has access to a referral network as needed.

The client corporation pays a “middle man” a flat monthly fee plus additional fees for medical supplies needed for the on-site clinic. Not unlike a locum tenens arrangement, the “middle man” organization recruits, credentials, and pays the company doctor. Hiring and managing nurses and administrative personnel are usually the client’s responsibility, leaving the doctor free to focus on patient care.

Although there are obvious benefits for all parties, there are some concerns as well. Maintaining patient confidentiality in a workplace environment is one. Physician accessibility “after hours” is another. And, should the company clinic be for “employees only” or for their family members as well?

Right now, the benefits seem to outweigh the potential issues. According to “Worksite Primary Care Clinics: A Systematic Review” (published in Population Health Management, May 2014), company-based health clinics in the U.S. are projected to grow by 11% to 20% annually for the foreseeable future.