3-minute case study: Healthy partnerships are better business

By Erin Graham | July 1, 2019

Animation of a lightbulb representing a patient flickering on and off being treated with a stethoscope and a needle for a shot

Across the athenahealth network and beyond, healthcare organizations are designing and implementing simple interventions with outsized impact on outcomes, satisfaction, and success. Here's another. 

The problem

North American Lighting (NAL), the biggest employer in the rural town of Paris, Illinois, wanted healthier employees and lower health insurance costs. Horizon Health, Paris' mini-hospital system, wanted a healthier community, and a way to keep NAL's 1,600 Paris employees engaged with its services. 

The solution

Horizon Health and NAL leaders brainstormed ways to create a mutually beneficial relationship and came up with a first-of-its-kind arrangement for the area. In June of last year, Horizon opened a proprietary primary care clinic for NAL employees, directly across the street from the NAL manufacturing plant and corporate office. Primary care visits to the clinic are free to employees and their families who elect NAL's PPO insurance plans, and many medications are available onsite for no charge as well. 

The clinic works under a cost-sharing partnership. And while the clinic offers NAL employees and their families the greatest cost savings, it is not their only option for care. NAL offers a competitive benefit plan with options for employees to establish primary care where they wish. 

The clinic is staffed by advanced practice providers who, along with support staff, are all provided by Horizon. NAL employees and their families are seen for everything a primary care office would attend to, and are open early on some days and later on some days to help accommodate workers' shifts. If the NAL clinic is closed, employees on those plans can use EZ Care (Horizon's walk-in clinic located in the same building) for free. 

The clinic aims to keep employees healthy, with a focus on patient education and services to help people manage blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking cessation — problems rampant in the area. 

“The thought is [that] it's so accessible, we can be more preventive," says Erin Frank, Horizon's public relations manager. This can help with health care utilization: More utilization when employees are well means they'll be sick less often. “Also, because it's so easy to be seen, people will [delay] less before seeing a provider if they're unwell." 

The innovative setup helps Horizon Health connect with a subset of the population that's hard to reach. Its typical patients tend to either be elderly, in farming, or both. But NAL patients are mostly young factory workers. Many of them live within a 30-mile radius surrounding Paris, which means that they have options for healthcare closer to home —competitors with Horizon. “The clinic is a great opportunity for our organization because they have extra incentive to keep their care in town," says Frank. 

The outcome

From the day the clinic opened in June of 2018 to mid-March, 2019, the clinic has had 2,425 patient visits. Taking into account days closed, the average is 13.3 appointments per day, a target Horizon Health is happy with. Of those 2,425 patient visits, 1,384 were return visits, leaving 1,041 total individuals cared for. Of these patients, 740 were new to Horizon Health. This level of demand will soon create the need for a second provider, according to Frank. 

Horizon Health can also pinpoint downstream revenue as a direct result of the new clinic. During the period studied, there were 307 orders created, the majority of which were specialty consults. Out of those, 206 were sent to Horizon Health locations, keeping care within the network. 

“It's a win-win-win," says Frank. “The patients benefit from affordable healthcare, NAL benefits by being able to better manage its healthcare expenses, and we benefit by having the opportunity to care for more community members and provide better health outcomes." 

Erin Graham is a frequent contributor to athenahealth's Knowledge Hub.

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