School clinic ahead of curve
After being open for nearly five months, the Red Wing School District health clinic has exceeded early expectations.
The district opened the clinic, operated by HealthPartners, in June to employees and dependents covered under the district’s insurance in hopes of curtailing rising health care costs.
June through September saw 508 patient visits to the clinic. That has saved the district 746 production hours and subsequently saved employees an estimated 746 personal-time-off hours, according to HealthPartners.
HealthPartners, using a report by the National Business Group on Health, estimates each visit to the district clinic saves 90 minutes of productivity. That is time employees would have been spent traveling to the doctor’s office, waiting for an appointment or waiting for medication.
“They told us in the summer we were doing about double the business of the other new (clinics),” district Finance Director Brad Johnson said. “It’s doing more than we maybe thought we’d get out of it.”
The clinic is currently operating at about 39 percent capacity, according to HealthPartners. The expected future capacity is 80 percent.
Once the clinic is running at anticipated numbers, the cost estimates will be $100 per visit.
The cost per visit in September was $207.09, including lab work and prescriptions, HealthPartners said. That is paid by the district; employees pay nothing.
“Certainly we have costs to operate the clinic, but the feeling is (health insurance premiums) will make up or exceed as the usage gets up,” Johnson said, adding the cost to run the clinic is approximately $250,000 per year.
The expected return on investment is 2-to-1, he said.
Johnson said the district historically had a number of years with health insurance costs rising anywhere from 13 to 19 percent. That became a significant portion of the district’s overall budget.
Health insurance premiums are typically in the $4 million range, Johnson said.
“That hits the employees, too. Usually when we’re getting hit, they’re getting a certain piece of the cost passed over, too,” Johnson said.
Aside from saving money for employees and the district, Johnson said there is a wellness component to the clinic that will be phased in at some point in the future.
“It’s a dual project,” Johnson said, making a point that improving employee health was a big component of opening the clinic.
He said he hopes the ease and convenience of the clinic will help encourage those who might not usually see a doctor get some routine work done, such as getting blood pressure and cholesterol checked.
On average, physician assistant Melissa Kluesner said she sees seven to eight patients a day. Many patients are able to make appointments on the same or next day.
“People really like this clinic,” she said, noting the clinic’s convenience and size.
The clinic, located near the high school in the building owned by Red Wing Youth Outreach, is 1,500 square feet and the recommendation was to have a space around 1,000 square feet, Johnson said. The district wanted extra space for expansion if the opportunity arose.