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Acadmies clinic hoped to be a ‘win’ for employees, school alike

December 17, 2011

The staff at Culver Academies; new clinic, from left, nurse Rebecca Galbreath, Dr. Brian Johnson, and nurse Colleen Knepper.

The largest employer in Marshall County is now also a health care provider for its many employees, and Culver Academies Human Resources Director Diane Avery couldn’t be happier.

Avery says the genesis of the idea began two years ago, when she read an article about medical practice coming full circle and the rebirth of a popular trend in the 1960s for large organizations to host onsite health clinics for their staff. With today’s rising health care costs, she says, institutions such as the Academies are seeking ways to keep those costs down.

Culver Head of Schools John Buxton, who had been in touch with an alumni of the school familiar with onsite clinics from his own work, liked the idea and put Avery together with the alum.

“John just said, ‘Sure, go with it,’” Avery recalls. “To me, he’s boss of the decade to let an idea like that go forward. So we did, and here we are. If anybody wants a study in how to work as a team, it was (the school’s) HR department, Facilities, Communications, Tech Services, Accounting -- we all worked together and got this thing going.”

The clinic is managed by OurHealth, an independent, clinically-driven provider of health management for employers. OurHealth is a third party entity not associated with any established hospital, health system, or insurer.

The clinic will offer primary, preventative, and other medical services such as annual physicals, care for common conditions such as sinus, bronchial, and allergy problems, flu, and the like, care for minor injuries, and routine care to monitor chronic health conditions. It will also dispense over 65 generic prescription medications, as well as outside physicians’ prescriptions following consultation. Most routine lab work is possible at the clinic, which can also provide referrals to specialists.

Use of the facility is optional for all the Academies’ benefit-eligible employees and spouses of those who carry the school’s health insurance, though Avery notes pediatrics is not part of the clinic’s offerings. The school will continue to operate its Health Center, for Academies students, as a totally separate entity, still staffed by Drs. Warren Reiss and Michael Deery of Lake Shore Clinic.

Already an expansion of hours is being considered at the clinic, which as of last week was booked well into January.

An onsite physician, Dr. Brian Johnson of Winamac, has come to the clinic as its full-time doctor, joining a registered nurse (the clinic is searching for a nurse practitioner), with the two slated to split hours such that someone will be on staff from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We’ve had several people transfer all their medical files over there,” Avery says. “It’s great for me. I doctor in Elkhart, so the coordination between my doc and this one will save a lot of drive time and company costs for me being gone from the office.”

The school’s use of insurance provider Anthem will, of course, go down significantly, she points out, and “ultimately insurance costs will go down.”

Those seeing specialists, for example, on a monthly basis for blood pressure, may have their blood pressure taken at the clinic and the results sent to the specialists, rather than visiting the specialist’s office for that service, saving significant costs all around.

All care is free to employees, though Avery emphasizes the clinic isn’t designed to be an urgent care facility.

Culver Academies employs some 580 people during its winter school months, and over 800 in the summer.

“If you factor in that 85 percent of employees have our insurance, so with spouses using it, then it’s a sizable number,” Avery adds.
The Academy Road-based clinic was converted from the old Officer’s Club, more recently used as apartments.

“You just can’t place a value on it,” she says. “You’re talking to somebody who, when I was hired here, had to ask three times, ‘So I get a free meal, and now free medical care?’ There’s not a company in the U.S. that’s as employee-friendly as we are. I love it; it’s a dream place.”

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