Back to the Future: The Doctor Is in House

As employers grapple with health care mandates, some are returning to the future.
Bill Virgin |   January 2013   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Dr. Erika Bliss, CEO of Qliance Medical Management.

Employee health care is expensive for both employer and worker, and not just in direct costs such as premiums, administration and deductibles.

There’s also the productivity lost when workers take time to travel to, and wait in, the doctor’s office for an exam, and the time lost to illness when a worker puts off dealing with a medical issue.

Would it be cheaper and more effective for all involved if the doctor’s office was an elevator ride away, or a short walk across an office campus, and an appointment was available with little delay?

That’s the question Bellevue-based online travel agency Expedia Inc. and Seattle-based primary-care clinic operator Qliance Medical Management will address with a joint venture into a new model of health care delivery that an increasing number of employers are turning to in an effort to rein in costs and get better results from the dollars they do spend.

Qliance is opening a primary care clinic at Expedia’s downtown-Bellevue location this month. It won’t be exclusively for Expedia employees; it’ll be the sixth clinic in the Qliance chain and open to others enrolled in the plan. But Expedia employees—there are more than 2,000 in Bellevue—won’t have to pay for access to Qliance’s services, which aren’t intended to be a replacement for the health care plans Expedia offers to employees.

So why go to the hassle and expense of adding the service?

Connie Symes, executive vice president of human resources at Expedia, says the clinic is part of “an increased focus on employee well-being” at the company. Dr. Erika Bliss, Qliance’s president and chief executive, says employers have practical reasons for paying attention to employee health. “The health care system is wild and expensive,” she says. “Having an on-site clinic gives them a way to start to try to control costs by encouraging their employees to make better use of primary care and to address things quickly rather than putting them off.”

Employers don’t expect health care’s ills to cure themselves; in fact, they could get worse  when it comes to getting in to see the doctor, once the Affordable Care Act starts pushing more patients into the system.

“They’ve got a very uncontrollable situation,” Bliss says. “On-site clinics are a way to guarantee access to health care for their employees.” They’re also a way to control the quality of the care.

    Subscribe Free     Free Insight Newsletter