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How to Start Your Occupational Health Clinic 

how to start occupational health clinic

Getting an occupational health clinic off the ground can feel like a monumental task. You’ve got to figure out all the logistics, determine your clinic’s setup and manage budgets for clinic startup and long-term operation. However, you know that giving your employees convenient access to quality medical care in the event of an on-the-job illness or injury is worth all the initial time and effort. 

Here’s what you need to know about starting your occupational health clinic. 

Understand the Need for an Occupational Health Clinic 

Before you can do any of the setup work for your occupational health clinic, it’s essential to get a clear understanding of why it’s a necessary addition to your organization. These reasons can be broken down into three main categories. 

Cost Savings 

It’s expensive to provide work-related healthcare to your workers, especially when you have no control over the quality and type of care they receive. Overtreatment and overprescription are major cost-drivers for the traditional healthcare system, and those costs get passed on to you. 

With an occupational health clinic, you pay a flat fee for all the treatment your workers receive, rather than paying per procedure or visit. Studies show that employers who offer occupational health clinics to their workers save $4 in healthcare costs for every $1 they spend running the clinic. Additionally, you have a partner in your clinic staff to keep tabs on the care workers receive offsite, ensuring provider recommendations are necessary and appropriate for your workers’ conditions. 

Improved Worker Health and Productivity 

Receiving offsite care, even for minor injuries, takes a lot of time. An injured worker must travel to the offsite facility, wait to be seen and then, potentially, travel back to work. That could add up to hours off the job when basic first aid would do. 

An occupational health clinic allows you to provide onsite injury evaluation and care recommendations, routing only those workers whose condition merits an offsite visit to the emergency department. Workers whose injuries can be managed with basic first aid can receive care at your jobsite and return to their duties, reducing their time away from work. And workers who have access to occupational health clinics tend to be healthier overall, with some reporting a more than 60% reduction in workplace injuries. 

Decreased Recordables Rates 

When an injured worker is sent offsite for care, you likely will be required to log an OSHA recordable and potentially generate a workers’ compensation claim. This creates a great deal of paperwork for you and adds to the cost of the worker’s healthcare. 

Being able to manage a wide variety of work-related injuries onsite helps you avoid these claims and recordables, saving you time, money and hassle. Additionally, the data your occupational health clinic collects can help you spot patterns in injury types and causes, allowing you to mitigate potential dangers that may trigger an OSHA fine. With OSHA fines running $16,131 per serious violation and $161,323 maximum per willful or repeated violation, even a minor reduction in cases that lead to fines can make a huge financial impact for your organization. 

Plan Your Occupational Health Clinic 

Working in tandem with your occupational health clinic provider, carefully planning your clinic is key to its long-term success.  

Assess Your Specific Needs 

Every organization is different, and the clinic setup that will work for one business isn’t going to be optimal for the next. Your occupational health clinic must be designed to meet the needs of your workers and your organization first, or you won’t see the success you’re hoping for. 

Some things to consider include: 

  • Your location: If you are in the middle of a city or suburban area, your clinic may not need as many amenities or as high a staffing level as one in a more remote location where transport to a hospital is more difficult. Keep in mind any state or local laws or regulations your clinic must comply with, too. 
  • Your industry: More dangerous worksite conditions may mean a higher risk for on-the-job injuries, which may cause a higher level of clinic utilization. Hazards unique to your specific industry must also be considered, as you’ll want your clinic staffed with professionals experienced in responding to these types of situations. 
  • Your worksite setup: If you’re in an organization where all workers are centrally located in a permanent building or grouping of buildings, that’s going to mean your clinic will be setup differently than an organization with frequently changing worksites or teams that are spaced farther apart. A team housed in one main building will be well suited to a permanent onsite clinic, while a team that’s frequently shifting worksites may need a mobile clinic, for example. 
  • Your team’s shifts: For teams that all keep a typical Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule, having a clinic that’s open 40 hours a week will be sufficient. But if your team works around the clock, you may need a different clinic schedule, or a hybrid of onsite and virtual solutions

Set Goals and Objectives 

Every organization looking to start an occupational health clinic wants to save time and money and keep their employees healthier, but without any starting data, it’s impossible to measure. 

Collect information on where your organization stands for the metrics that matter to you to measure. Some things to consider include: 

  • Injury rates 
  • Time off work rates 
  • Workers’ compensation claims rates 
  • Workers’ compensation costs 
  • Healthcare cost savings 
  • OSHA recordable rates 
  • Employee satisfaction rates 
  • Employee turnover rates 

Once you’ve determined what metrics you want to track and collected your historical data, you need to figure out what improvement looks like. Perhaps that’s a 10% decrease in workers’ compensation claims rates and a 5% increase in employee satisfaction rates in the first two years of your clinic’s operation. 

Work with your clinic provider to determine reasonable stretch goals for each of your metrics and adjust as necessary. 

Budget for Clinic Setup 

Once you understand the type of clinic you need, and you’ve worked with your chosen provider to figure out how you’ll measure success, you need to set the budget for your clinic’s initial setup and maintenance. In most cases, this will be something your occupational health clinic provider will help you determine, but you still need to work the numbers and figure out how your organization will pay for it. 

You may want to explore potential grants or other outside funding sources that may be available to get your clinic going. Even a small percentage of the setup fee that can come from a grant is money that your organization doesn’t have to directly spend. 

Promote and Communicate About Your Occupational Health Clinic 

After you have the design for your clinic figured out and you know how you’re going to pay for it, you need to get your team onboard to maximize utilization. Depending on your company culture, it may be difficult to get your workers away from immediately heading for the emergency room after an injury. 

Sending out all-hands emails, holding question and answer sessions, and posting promotional materials related to your new clinic are all necessary to properly get the word out about your new occupational health clinic. Consider holding special training sessions or meetings with all department and shift supervisors to go over the new procedures for when an employee is injured and add a written copy of the procedure to your employee handbooks. 

Fostering an environment of welcoming questions and feedback is key to getting the most buy-in as soon as your clinic opens. Make sure your workers know they can ask any questions they may have about the clinic and its operations, and do your best to provide honest, complete answers. 

This will help create a culture of openness and trust in your occupational health clinic from the beginning and will go a long way toward maximizing clinic utilization. 

Monitor and Evaluate Your Onsite Clinic Success 

Remember those metrics you set during the clinic planning process? Once your clinic is open and operating, you’ll need to collect data related to those metrics and compare them to your data from before your clinic was open. 

If your clinic isn’t on target for reaching your goals, have a meeting with your clinic provider and discuss possible reasons. You may find a hazard that causes accidents which is contributing to higher-than-projected injury rates, or that workers in one department are bypassing your clinic and going to urgent care. You can then focus your efforts on correcting these specific issues and, hopefully, getting your clinic’s success back on track. 

Your Occupational Health Clinic Partners 

Medcor specializes in providing occupational health clinics to organizations of all types and sizes, providing exceptional healthcare to injured workers and reducing costs for companies. If you’re ready to explore all the ways an occupational health clinic can benefit your business, speak with an advocate today.