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There’s no denying the important role health care plays in the Springfield region’s economy, and its role in recruiting and retaining employees.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that nearly 36,000 people have jobs tied directly to health care in our 10-county region, working in more than 2,600 establishments. They account for 13.8% of total jobs in the area and more than 17% of total payroll.
At the Health Care Outlook event, held June 19 by the Springfield Business Development Corporation – the economic development arm of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce – business and health care industry leaders discussed another way health care impacts the area’s economy: providers working directly with employers and improving access to care to keep employees engaged and productive.
David Raney, vice president of CoxHealth Network Services, said access is crucial for everyone involved in the health care continuum because of the changing way the government is reimbursing health care providers for services.
“We’re less and less being paid based on catastrophic outcomes,” he said. “The new model is based much more on prevention and the overall health of the patient, which make access to care that much more important.” For example, CoxHealth has partnered with area employers to place cost-effective occupational medicine services at their place of business. Through a simple camera, a health care provider can evaluate and diagnose work-related injuries in real time, saving both time and money.
Increased access for the general public, especially a new generation of patients, is a focus for Mercy Springfield, according to Jennifer McNay, M.D., the hospital’s VP of adult medicine. She pointed to Mercy’s partnership with GoHealth to bring quick-access clinics to Springfield as an example of the difference in how young adult patients are requesting care. At the new clinics, patients can check in via smartphone, monitor their wait time, and be seen quickly for basic health needs, keeping them on the job.
“The new model means more accessibility, and it means more transparency because you’re putting the cost up front, which is not how things have operated traditionally,” McNay said. “Up until now, if someone asked up front what the cost of service would be, my knee-jerk reaction would be to ask what insurance they have.”
Of course, insurance coverage is still a vital part of the access equation for employees – and it’s vital for companies looking to recruit or retain those employees in an incredibly tight labor market like Springfield with very low unemployment.
Nancy Riggs, regional vice president with Penmac Staffing Services, said the companies she works with need to provide more than just information about their pay and job descriptions. They also need to be able to talk about potential benefits – including health care.
“The responses are across the board in terms of what companies are offering,” she said. “We encourage them to be creative in thinking about what they can offer and know that it’s important for recruitment. Because you never know what that ‘one thing’ is going to be that makes the difference for a potential employee.”
For Jordan Valley Community Health Center, its very mission is “improving the health of the community through access and relationships.” The center saw 66,000 unique patients in 2018, and only about 20% of those had insurance, which means it’s serving a population of the community who might otherwise not seek health care services.
According to Matthew Stinson, M.D., the center’s vice president of medical and behavioral health services, a growing number of those patients were visiting for a specific purpose: to tackle a substance abuse or mental health issue.
He noted that the center opened a substance abuse clinic in July 2018 with grant money from the Missouri Foundation for Health and has already seen more than 1,300 patients for opioid use issues. Stinson also noted that the issue is about more than just substance abuse; it’s also a workforce issue.
“There is a strong correlation between substance abuse and mental health issues,” he said. “And if you have a good employee but they have these issues, you don’t want to just fire them. You should help get them stable and get them treatment.”
Taking health care access into consideration will be critical as employers look to retain their employees and recruit new employees to grow their business.