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Companies Forming Own Health Clinics

In his medical practice, Peter Krause now allots a full hour for new patients and a half an hour for routine visits.

The additional time has changed the way he practices medicine.

"You have more time to think about each individual problem the patient has," said Krause, a family-practice physician. "It allows you to slow down your whole thinking process, so that you are more thorough.

Krause's new practice is at Kohl's Wellness Center, a family-practice clinic less than a half a mile from the company's corporate headquarters in Menomonee Falls.

The clinic, which opened in July, is one of at least eight in Wisconsin run by companies. It is also a part of a growing trend, in which large companies try to rein in rising health care costs by providing the care themselves.

Many of those companies - including Quad/Graphics, one of the first to set up its own clinics - have shown that they can provide better care at a lower overall cost.

They have done that partly by focusing on primary care and prevention.

Their experience supports the contention of health care economists and analysts that the system's focus on costly specialty care and procedures is one of the key reasons that the United States spends far more than other industrialized nations on health care.

Other Wisconsin companies that have set up primary care clinics for employees and family members include Miller Brewing Co., Briggs & Stratton Corp. , InSinkErator, S. C. Johnson and Mercury Marine.

Employees can still see other doctors in their health plans' networks. Nevertheless, Kohl's and most large companies self-insure, paying most of the medical bills of employees and their families. That means the potential savings from the clinics goes to the companies' bottom line.

In a recent survey, Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a benefits consulting company, found that 23% of over 600 companies, nearly all of them large employers, had their own clinics. Most of those clinics focused on wellness or provided only urgent care.

Nevertheless, more companies - among them Toyota Motor, Perdue, Sprint Nextel and Qualcomm - have set up clinics that offer a full range of services.

"There's a lot of work upfront, but there's a lot of payoff on the back end," said Mitch Santiago, a senior consultant with Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

Primary Care Model

Appeal Of Convenience

Efficient Care



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