ELKHART — If you’re like most people, a tickle in your throat has you calculating how many sick days you have left this year.
But for some people in Elkhart County, taking a day off work to go to the doctor’s office isn’t necessary. Employees of Elkhart County government, Elkhart Community Schools, Goshen Community Schools and Concord Community Schools have health clinics either at or near their place of work. Services at these clinics — ranging from diagnosis and treatment of minor illnesses to routine physicals and tests — are included in their employee health insurance plan, so most of the time employees pay nothing to visit the clinic.
Beckie Lies, who works at the Elkhart County Health Department, said she’s been going to the Elkhart clinic for county employees since it opened six years ago.
“I like it that I can come during work, over my lunch hour,” said Lies on Monday, June 24, after her appointment. “They don’t do walk-ins and you are seen (by a doctor) quickly — you don’t have to wait.”
Lies said she likes being able to make an appointment online. Her husband also goes to the clinic and Lies said her family has always been happy with the care they’ve received. Employees of Elkhart County government departments can visit health clinics in Elkhart or Goshen — whichever is most convenient for them.
Offering employees on-site health services is rising in popularity in the area. Vicci Moore, director of human resources for the city of Elkhart, said the city is considering a clinic for its employees.
“We are looking into (a clinic),” said Moore. “We have some former county employees who liked the clinic there and members of our employee advisory committee like the idea. We are a smaller group, so it may be feasible to find someone to partner with.”
Moore said a clinic for city employees would focus on wellness and preventive care.
“The clinic would provide medical care, but it would also be for some lifestyle coaching and wellness provisions that could help employees manage (their health),” said Moore. “We are looking at clinics that are focused not on just seeing patients and giving them prescriptions but spending some time with them, too.”
Preventative care is also on the minds of Elkhart Community Schools administrators. A clinic for ECS employees opened in September 2012 after school administrators decided they needed to bring employee claims down to keep premiums affordable.
“We really reached a point where we understood that as long as our claims kept increasing the premiums would keep increasing as well,” said Doug Hasler, executive director of support services for Elkhart Community Schools. “We wanted to create opportunities for people to control their health. The bottom line is, your average American citizen is not as healthy as they can be or as they should be.”
Hasler said that prior to opening the health and wellness center, the school corporation sometimes brought in nurses to do short screening visits with employees. They talked with employees about their health and what they could do about problems related to weight, smoking and other issues. However, the short visits weren’t making enough of a difference.
“We didn’t feel that employees got enough resources to really impact their health,” said Hasler. “The health and wellness center, we felt, was a resource to provide the employee with not only the information they need but the opportunity to come up with a plan to improve their health.”
Elkhart Community Schools employees are encouraged to get a physical exam once a year, and many do, said Hasler.
“Most of our buildings have been participating at a rate of 60 percent or better when it comes to getting the physical,” said Hasler. “At the end of that appointment, employees are meeting with the care provider to come up with a year-long plan to help with the health issues that were apparent during that visit that day.”
Employees can give feedback on the clinic’s services through a survey.
“We want employees to come back (to the clinic) and we think we are getting good information from the surveys,” said Hasler. “People have commented on the convenience of the clinic and the time they are able to spend with the physician. The model we are working with is not the same experience as going to your family physician. There isn’t all the waiting. If they arrive on time (the employee) is pretty much able to see the nurse practitioner or doctor right away. They get more time with the doctor and they are less rushed.”
Goshen Community Schools also opened a clinic for employees in 2012. Superintendent Diane Woodworth said the clinic has been a great addition to employee’s benefits.
“A high percentage of eligible employees have taken advantage of the clinic,” said Woodworth. “Many employees are able to go to the clinic during a break they have during the work day rather than taking a half-day off. This helps with employee productivity.”
Concord Community Schools was the first local school corporation to open a clinic for employees, and Superintendent Wayne Stubbs said it may have been one of the first in Indiana.
“We (school administrators) made some visits to other clinics around the Midwest and we decided it was worth a shot,” said Stubbs.
He said that employees were nervous about the clinic at first but have grown to see the value of it.
“It’s convenient, it’s on our grounds and it’s something people can get to quickly before or after school,” said Stubbs.
Stubbs added that he thinks more employers will offer on-site health services as time goes on.
“This is definitely something I think people have on their radar screen,” he said.
The clinics for Elkhart County government and Concord Community Schools are administered by Novia CareClinics. The clinic for Elkhart Community Schools is administered by Activate Healthcare and Goshen Community School’s clinic is administered by IU Health Workplace Services.