Fewer ER, Hospital Visits for Employer Health Center Patients, Per Major Academic Medical Center Study

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Reduced costs, improved health for employees and dependents using SAS Health Care Center

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For 30 years, analytics leader SAS has operated an on-site Health Care Center (HCC) for the convenience of employees and dependents. Now, a new study led by researchers at Duke Health finds those who use the HCC for primary care are less likely to need emergency department visits or hospitalizations than those who do not.

“The research found that getting primary care at our health care center reduced the need for expensive emergency department visits and hospitalizations during the study period,” said Gale Adcock, Chief Health Officer at SAS. “It’s clear our Health Care Center makes a big difference to not only the health of SAS employees and families, but the financial health of SAS.” The benefits to employers can also include reduced health care costs, improvements in employee wellness and satisfaction, and reduced absenteeism.

The Phase II study was recently published in INQUIRY: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing.Phase I research released last year found that HCC primary care users saved SAS up to $600 each in health plan claims costs over three years.

Fewer hospital and ER visits, lower health care costs
Key findings of the new study show:

  •     Employees and dependents who did not use the HCC were significantly more likely to need emergency department care or hospitalization, compared with those using the HCC for primary care.
  •     HCC users had fewer hospitalizations than non-users.
  •     The number of emergency department visits was highest among HCC non-users.

“Excess use of emergency rooms and hospitals has been a longstanding problem in the American health care system,” said Chris Conover, MD, research scholar at Duke’s Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research and one of the study’s authors. “This research demonstrates that worksite health centers offer a promising approach to addressing such overuse in a cost-effective fashion.”

Researchers used SAS® Analytics to examine anonymized medical plan claims for 3,759 SAS employees and 6,502 dependents from 2006-2008. Among employees studied during the three-year period, 64 percent used the HCC for primary care, 25 percent occasionally used it, and 11 percent did not use the service at all. For dependents, the numbers were 47 percent (adult) and 29 percent (pediatric) for primary care use, 24 percent and 36 percent for occasional use, and 29 percent and 35 percent for no use.

A Phase III study of the effect of Health Care Center use on employee health is underway. This study is also being conducted by Duke researchers in cooperation with SAS and using SAS Analytics software.

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Cary Conway
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