Onsite 2.0: Part 1: The History of Onsite Clinics

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April 20, 2016

Onsite 2.0: Part 1: The History of Onsite Clinics

Now is an exciting time for employers interested in deploying innovative healthcare solutions to address rising costs and chronic disease rates across their employee population. Explore the evolution of employer sponsored clinics and find out what current limitations exist to better understand how they operate today. Download your free version of the white paper today.


1860s: The Company Doctor - Phase 1

    • Railroad and mining companies first opened company-owned clinics to address worker injuries on the job.
    • Goal: Keep the workers on the job. Throughout the industrial revolution, hazardous working conditions prompted many large manufacturers to add clinics to better manage workplace injuries and maximize productivity. The breadth of services delivered was limited largely to addressing onsite injuries.
    • Employees were often required to pay for these onsite medical services out of payroll deductions, making onsite clinics rather unpopular with the workforce. 


1920s: The Fall of Onsite Clinics

    • For much of the 20th Century, the popularity of onsite clinics was linked to the overall economy. However, after the great depression many employers were forced to close their onsite clinics.


1930 - 1960s: The Rise of Onsite Clinics 

    • The manufacturing boom during and post-World War II led to a resurgence of onsite care.
    • Fun fact: Kaiser Permanente grew out of employer-sponsored clinics to provide care for workers in Henry Kaiser’s shipyards and steel mills before World War II.


1970s - 1980s: Losing Popularity

    • Onsite clinics fell out of favor during the 1970s and 1980s, and their numbers dropped significantly.
    • As global competition increased, manufacturing began to be outsourced, and many employers searched for ways to cut costs. Because onsite clinics were set up as pure cost centers, they were an easy target for cost-cutting measures.


2000s: Rising Healthcare Costs Driving Renewed Interest

    • Steep increases in healthcare costs since the dawn of the new millennium; however, have led to renewed interest in onsite clinics.
    • According to the Milliman Medical Index: The average total healthcare cost for a family of four has risen 167 percent since 2002 compared to GDP growth of less than 25 percent for the same period.
    • Employers looking for ways to reduce healthcare spending have been opening onsite clinics at an increased rate over the past decade with the goal of addressing various aspects of employee care more cost effectively.


Increasingly, onsite clinics are migrating from occupational health and acute care to being viewed as an alternative primary care delivery model. Next in our series, “Onsite Clinics 2.0: The New Model for Employer Sponsored Healthcare,” we will explore the changing role of onsite clinics. To learn more, download the Onsite Clinics 2.0 whitepaper.

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