Gahanna employees don't have far to go when they feel sick at work or if they sustain an injury on the job.
The city began offering employees the option to use the family health and wellness center at the ExpressMed urgent-care center, 455 Rocky Fork Blvd., in January as a way to lower health-care costs and improve the well-being of employees and their families.
The partnership with ExpressMed and Mount Carmel Health System allows the city to pay a fixed cost for services and, consequently, reduce the quantity and expense of claims processed through its health insurance.
Gahanna human-resources director Abby Cochran said 145 employees covered under the city's health-care plan are participating.
She said use of the center means claims aren't submitted to health insurance. This would allow a rate reduction in future years that ultimately would benefit city taxpayers.
Cochran said Gahanna's fixed cost is $30 per participant per month.
"We pay per month, based upon our number of eligible participants," she said. "The estimated cost for this year will be around $143,000. For the first year, we projected that we would be able to divert around $110,000 from our health plan in urgent-care/emergency room visits."
That analysis was done before the United Steelworkers opted in to participate, so the city's savings actually will be be higher, Cochran said. The estimated cost does include those steelworkers participating, though, she said.
"There are other cost savings realized by moving our wellness program there, as well as employees seeking treatment there instead of other providers for on the job accidents or injuries," Cochran said.
Mayor Tom Kneeland said the public-private partnership is a win-win for Gahanna because it allows the city to lower the cost of providing health-care benefits to staff while providing new health-care options and services to employees.
He said it provides employees access to an on-site pharmacy and reduces out-of-pocket costs for office visits, making it convenient and compelling for employees and their families to stay healthy.
"I have used it several times since January," Kneeland said. "Excellent service, a great employee benefit and very convenient."
Robert Alexander, who works in the city's water division, on Jan. 2 was the first city employee to use the clinic.
"I've been back for colds and stuff," he said. "It has worked out great. I get in and out quickly. A lot of people, who wouldn't go the doctor or couldn't get in for two or three weeks to a doctor would just keep working."
As part of his job, Alexander said, he's working on the city's streets all the time, so the clinic is convenient.
"We can swing in during our work hours," he said. "They have a time limit to get us in and out, so we can get taken care of quickly."
Alexander said his past practice was to treat himself, try to get an appointment with his doctor or go to an urgent care.
Melissa Jackson, who works in human resources for Gahanna, started visiting the clinic because it's close to City Hall.
"It's convenient for me to be able to come over and be seen," she said. "I had an acute illness a couple months ago and was able to get an antibiotic on the spot, so it didn't cost me anything out of my pocket. They didn't run a claim. And I didn't have to go to the pharmacy for my antibiotic."
Jackson even set up primary-care appointments because it had been difficult for her to get into her former primary-care physician.
"Here it was a lot easier to get an appointment," she said. "They worked around my schedule. I was able to get in and be treated for some ongoing conditions."
Mike Bourland, an owner of ExpressMed, said the Columbus-based urgent-care company serves the general public and specific employers for their employee clinic operation needs.
In addition to Gahanna's location that opened in 2014, ExpressMed has locations in New Albany and Hilliard.
Bourland said ExpressMed provides specific services for employees, spouses and dependents.
"We serve them seven days a week here, plus at our other two locations as well," Bourland said. "We have individualized treatment plans for each of the patients who becomes established in the primary care program, with the intent of making employees be healthier in the long run."
He said the whole idea is for the employer to be active in the health of employees and dependents and hopefully lead to a much healthier employer.
"For the first three months of the program, we've seen on average in the urgent-care side, one (Gahanna employee) a day, or 30 per month. In addition to that, we've seen another 30 to 40 employees who've established themselves in the primary-care program."
In April, Bourland said, ExpressMed had 35 to 37 visits from city employees, spouses or their dependents.
"It's important the city is taking the lead," he said. "It's a wonderful idea. The city has to be active in the administration. It's almost like the city has an onsite clinic."
He said he thinks others would follow Gahanna's lead.
"Schools are also wonderful candidates," Bourland said. "Other mid-sized employers are also getting interested with the help of the city."
As for other partners, Kneeland said, the city is waiting to see how well the model performs before making it available to others.
"It certainly has the potential to provide an excellent and affordable option for others, too, but we need at least a year of our own before we venture into offering it to others."
Bourland said clients visit for colds, flus, lacerations and other issues typically seen in a physician's office.
"We also provide service for accidents at work," he said. "The location is convenient. You can be seen (and) then get back to work. We try to have everyone seen with all services within an hour."
Employees may opt for an annual diagnostic/screening to measure such health predictors as blood pressure to develop a treatment plan.
Bourland said individualized treatment plans are offered for issues identified among employees and dependents.
Mount Carmel Health System provides care coordination and wellness programming, including health coaching with employees.
"The objective is to help people see what they need to do in daily life to be (healthy), initially to understand their condition," Bourland said.
He said this type of service is expanding nationally, in part for the convenience.
About five years ago, Whitehall opened a wellness center for its employees and their families at 538 S. Yearling Road.
The wellness center was believed to be a first of its kind in central Ohio for employees of a municipality.
Kneeland had experienced Whitehall's clinic when he was employed there, he said.
He said Gahanna's system is different, but the concept is the same.
Whitehall human-resources director Ann Lund said the city shares its clinic with Whitehall City Schools.
"It is open to employees and their families only," she said. "It operates like an urgent care Monday through Friday."
Lund said the city contracted with Keypoint Health Services Inc. to staff the wellness center.
"I can tell you the clinic has saved the city money in health-care costs," she said.