According to a new study conducted by RAND Corporation in partnership with Continuance Health Solutions, opening onsite health clinics that provide comprehensive primary care to teachers and their families lowers school district’s health care costs and decreases teacher absenteeism,
Examining the experience of a large urban school district, researchers found that teachers who used onsite health clinics as the source of primary care cut their annual health care costs by about 15 percent and were significantly less likely to be admitted to the hospital.
The study is the largest to date to examine the benefits of opening onsite health clinics for workers and is the first to examine worksite clinics for teachers. The findings are published online by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
“Our findings suggest opening onsite health clinics for teachers and their families can help lower their health care costs for school districts as well as for patients,” said Jon Harris-Shapiro, Chief Analytic Officer for Continuance Health Solutions, Inc.
Relatively few studies have examined the impact of worksite health clinics, although other types of workplace health interventions such as smoking cessation have been studied extensively. Previous studies have not found a strong link between worksite health clinics and overall lower health costs.
The RAND study examined the experiences of Metro Nashville Public Schools, a large district that includes 120 schools and about 6,000 teachers. The district worked with an academic medical center to establish five school-based clinics in 2009 to improve teacher access to care. The system was designed so that every teacher can reach a worksite clinic within a 15-minute drive from the school where they work. The worksite clinics are staffed by family nurse practitioners and provide primary medical care for all teachers and their dependents.
The study found that teachers who used the school-based clinics as the source of primary care instead of a community-based health provider had significantly fewer inpatient admissions (31 versus 53 per 1,000 teacher years) and fewer primary care visits (1,637 versus 2,756 per 1,000 teacher years). Using a school-based clinic for primary medical care drove down per person annual total health care costs by $745 ($4,298 versus $5,043). The primary drivers of the decline were lower hospital inpatient costs ($417 versus $776 ), hospital outpatient costs ($707 versus $873) and prescription costs ($1,320 versus $1,422).
Support for the study was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evidence for Action Program. The views in the study do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation.