As pressure remains strong to keep workers healthy, productive and on the job, a significant number of U.S. employers with onsite health centers are planning to expand the scope of services offered, as well as the audiences eligible to use the centers, in the next 12 months, according to a survey by global professional services company Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW).exercise-class-422.jpg

The “Towers Watson 2012 Onsite Health Center Survey” looks at 74 large employers that have established or are planning to establish onsite health facilities. Services offered at onsite centers can include onsite coaching, immunizations, biometric screenings, physical therapy, pharmacy and other medical services.

According to the survey, most companies (62%) establish or keep their centers open to gain improvements in employee productivity that come from eliminating visits to offsite medical providers. Other factors for establishing a center include cost reduction (57%) and improved access to care (46%).

Currently, a majority of onsite health centers offer biometric screenings (81%), wellness counseling (73%), urgent care and first-responder services (70% each), and primary care services (63%).

However, many companies plan to add new capabilities in 2013. Most notably, 28% of employers plan to add telemedicine, up from 8% that currently offer the service. In addition, 8% plan to add primary care services (63% currently offer); 6% plan to add full onsite pharmacies (24% currently offer), and 6% plan to add physical therapy (up from 41% currently offer).

"Employers believe onsite health centers can effectively address the key needs of increasing productivity, controlling costs and improving employee health," said Greg Mansur, senior consultant at Towers Watson. "It's important to note that onsite health centers will not be a fit for all companies. However, many of those companies that have embraced them believe they can pay even greater dividends in the future. Specifically, these employers are planning to offer new services and expand the audiences that can use them."

Currently, more than one-third (36%) allow spouses and children of employees to use their centers. Within 12 months, those numbers are expected to jump. An additional 13% are planning to allow spouses to use the centers, and another 11% are planning to allow children. More employers are also planning to allow former employees on COBRA, as well as temporary and contract employees, to use their centers.

"Treating covered dependents can provide as much value to an organization as treating an employee," said Patti Friedman, senior consultant at Towers Watson. "In fact, when evaluating the expected costs and savings of implementing an onsite health center, more use tends to translate into higher returns."

Perceptions and Measurement

Overall, employers and employees at companies that have implemented onsite centers view them positively. The survey found that employers believe that nearly three-quarters of senior management have very high support for their centers. Likewise, they believe that most employees are very satisfied with both the level (53%) and quality (58%) of the services offered by their centers.

Despite these encouraging views, only 38% of employers believe their onsite health centers generates a positive ROI, compared with 9% that do not. The remaining 53% either don't know or don't track the ROI. Those that measure use lost time as the most common factor to make their calculations (74%).

"Even though internal support is high, companies are finding it difficult to get their arms around how to measure the ROI of onsite health centers," said Dr. Allan Khoury, senior consultant at Towers Watson. "But that will come along in time. With employee health and productivity, and cost control, remaining paramount concerns, the future of onsite health centers remains very promising."

Other survey findings include:

  • While employers offer benefits at their onsite health centers beyond the normal scope of what is considered exempt from ERISA requirements, only 53% identify their onsite health centers as an ERISA plan.
  •  84% of centers currently in place utilize an electronic medical record.
  • More than three-quarters do not expect their centers' service offerings to change due to health care reform. However, 30% expect the use of their centers to increase due to reform, while 34% do not expect an increase, and 36% are unsure.

About the Survey

The “Towers Watson 2012 Onsite Health Center Survey” was conducted before the Supreme Court announced that the PPACA was constitutional on June 28, 2012. This online survey took place from May 3 to May 25. It asked targeted companies to answer 21 questions about their implementation, use and employee perceptions of onsite health centers. Participants included organizations that currently operate an onsite health center and participated in the 17th Annual Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health Employer Survey on Purchasing Value in Health Care (2012) and the Towers Watson 2011 – 2012 Staying@Work Study. The respondents represent companies with at least 1,000 employees, accounting for a total of 1.7 million employees, and operate in a variety of industry sectors.


About Towers Watson

Towers Watson is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. The company offers solutions in the areas of employee benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Towers Watson has 14,000 associates around the world and is located on the web at