Healthcare In The House

Surrounded by companies with generous benefits, Redstone leveraged an on-site clinic to attract talent and cut medical costs.

 
 

Redstone Federal Credit Union ($3.6B, Huntsville, AL) has a thriving culture of innovation and an average employee compensation that exceeds median levels for the region by nearly $3,000, according to Indeed.com and Callahan & Associates' Peer-to-Peer analytics. In many markets across the country, these two factors alone would be enough to send potential employees flocking though the doors.

But with so many large defense, technology, and aerospace engineering firms nearby  — many of which have both budgets and benefits that rival those of Silicon Valley firms — Redstone had to find other ways to connect with top talent besides base compensation.

One effective way has been an on-site health clinic, according to Jan Bias, Redstone’s vice president of human resources. Located at the cooperative’s headquarters, the clinic has tended to all 800-plus employees for the past four years.

“Our competitors for potential employees aren’t other banks and credit unions but are mostly big companies and contractors outside the industry,” Bias says.  “So we needed a carrot that a lot of other places wouldn’t be able to offer.”

Tapping Into Existing Relationships

Bias had been toying with the idea of an on-site health clinic for years, but it wasn’t until a former executive colleague — Joseph Newberry — returned to the credit union as CEO that the HR team finally got a green light for the project. Another factor that made this undertaking manageable was the relationship Redstone had with its select employee group, Huntsville Hospital, and one of its subsidiaries Occupational Health Group (OHG).

OHG had just begun experimenting with creating on-site, workplace-based clinics around the time that Redstone was exploring this option. As a result, the credit union was able to actually adopt the clinic layout and best practices of an earlier pioneer location.

Sound Care At A Fair Cost

Because of its existing partnership with the hospital, upfront costs for Redstone’s clinic were primarily limited to repurposing the space — an overlooked section of the mailroom — as well as stocking it with the necessary materials, all to the tune of about $50,000.

“We turned that space into a waiting room, two exam rooms, an office, a conference room, a triage area, and a restroom, and then outfitted the facility with basic medical supplies and a few pieces of high-end equipment,” Bias says.

Securing medical oversight that would keep the credit union clear of any potential liability was another concern. To address this, the location operates under OHG’s license and medical direction via contract, at an ongoing cost of about $150,000 a year.

This cost also includes a doctor who oversees the program and visits once a week to review records as well as a certified registered nurse practitioner (CRPN) who is on site every workday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and sees employees by appointment.

“Employees can set up either 15 or 30 minute appointments using our internal scheduling system, and the clinic stays booked every day,” Bias says. “But we made it clear to employees that they’ll still need their primary physician.”

During those appointments, the nurse practitioner, who is also a certified counselor, may perform routine exams, treat minor or chronic conditions, issue non-narcotic prescriptions, draw blood for outside lab work, provide preventative care like free flu shots, and even do pre-employment drug testing.

Healthy Returns For Everyone

Because Redstone is self-insured, the cost savings from the clinic have been greater than they would be for other institutions that negotiate healthcare services through a third party. 

“We didn’t go into it just to save money, but we’ve found that if you can help people stay healthy, it will certainly help your costs in the long run,” Bias says.

An analysis of clinic utilization and a comparison of cost if employees had sought the same medical treatments with their private physicians revealed a significant drop in out-of-pocket copays. Combined together with the reduction in physician and lab costs for the credit union’s self funded plan, these savings totaled about $580,000 last year.

This amount more than covers the annual cost of the facility itself and has even allowed Redstone to keep employee healthcare premiums level.

“That’s pretty unusual in this economy with the uncertainty surrounding healthcare,” Bias says.

Although the credit union is still gathering additional data, it believes both the number of employee sick days and hours used for medical appointments has also declined.

“Now, employees don’t have to be gone half the day or lose a lot of their time waiting to get something taken care of,” Bias says

At the same time, having access to a nurse gives the credit union an expert who can determine if someone is well enough to return to work, needs to go home, or should seek further treatment.

Redstone is even considering adding an online wellness system to help employees track their progress toward long-term goals such as eating healthier and exercising more.

“Our nurse would work with employees to collect and feed that data into this system, but it would be something the employees could control and utilize themselves,” Bias says. “We wouldn’t have access to individual records or any specific personal health information, but we could see cumulative trends and could even incentivize healthy activities without crossing any privacy boundaries.”

Taking It To The Masses

Although the credit union offers employees the option of medical coverage for direct family members, the on-site clinic is currently limited to employees only.

However, extended family, acquaintances, and everyday members have all been able to take advantage of another program from the credit union’s CUSO Redstone Consulting Group and a New York-based company called Healthcare Alliance that offers free prescription discount cards.

“Our employees probably won’t benefit from the discount cards because we have excellent prescription drug coverage through our medical plan, but we do tell them to give those pharmacy cards out to everyone they know,” Bias says.

For those with less extensive insurance or no insurance at all, the cards can slash the cash price of many prescription drugs by up to 75%.

“With all of the regulatory changes and the unknowns in this arena, we really wanted to get out there and address people’s concerns proactively in whatever way we could,” Bias says.

 

 

 

June 23, 2014


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