Garden City commissioners on Tuesday heard a presentation on the city’s employee-based health clinic and wellness program, Grow Well Clinic, which revealed results showing the new program has been a benefit to city employees and is saving on healthcare costs.

The clinic, 302 N. Fleming St., Suite 2, is managed by Revere Healthcare Solutions, Inc., and 2016 was the first full year the clinic was under RHS management, according to Carmine Di Palo, chairman and CEO of RHS.

Di Palo said the city previously partnered with WINS, Inc. to open a near-site clinic to offer its employees non-copay access to health care. The clinic first opened in 2011, then in 2015, WINS went bankrupt and had to liquidate its assets, which resulted in the clinic closing. RHS then acquired WINS’ assets in March 2015 and re-opened the clinic.

“The idea is to really bring simplicity to healthcare…” Di Palo said, adding that the partnership between RHS and the clinic aims to provide city employees easier access to health care while also easing the financial burden of providing a good healthcare benefit. Grow Well and RHS provide healthcare services to contracted employers, their employees and family members for a flat fee each month.

On a rolling basis in the last 12 months, visits to the clinic increased by 4.7 percent. In October 2016, there were about 2,700 patient visits, and in October of this year, there were 2,875 visits, Di Palo said.

Di Palo noted that the Grow Well Clinic and RHS have contributed to keep the city’s overall healthcare costs well below the nation’s annual average increase.

While the nation’s annual average increase in health care expense is nearly 17 percent from 2014 to 2018, according to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Employee Health Benefits’ Survey, the city saw only a 3 percent increase.

“If we look at the costs per month per life between the city’s and the average employer in the Kaiser Foundation (survey), the difference is $174 per month per life,” Di Palo said.

Di Palo said that if you multiply that $174 saving per month for the 830 people insured by the city (300 city employees plus their family members) the total net saving is $1.7 million per year in healthcare costs.

City Manager Matt Allen is quoted in a case study provided during Tuesday's meeting that, “Usually when dealing with matters of health and behavioral change, the returns begin to materialize long after the initial investment is made.”

“In our case, the health indicators after year one were impressive, and we were excited to see the health, as well as the culture, of our workplace improve,” Allen said. “A bigger surprise was that in the first year, the city could document a net budgetary savings from diverted claims.”

Merilyn Douglass, who is an APRN at the clinic, said it is a privilege to take care of the of the city’s employees and their families.

“We provide the highest quality of direct care in the area, bar none. Direct care means that we contract with an employer to provide service to their employees and families, and we do that without filing insurance,” Douglass said during Tuesday’s meeting. “Therefore, we’re able to save the costs by not having to deal with the insurance industry, and we pass that cost on to our clients.”

Douglass said the four pillars of of health care that the clinic provides are primary and urgent care, worker’s compensation and occupational healthcare, additional testing and preventative services, and health risk management.

“Fifty percent of our visits are individualized health care counseling plans of care, and that’s another something you don’t hear of in a clinic situation. Our goal in making those plans is making a healthy, enjoyable retirement,” she said. “That is our goal.”

Douglass said the clinic recently partnered with Core Fitness and the Garden City Recreation Commission to provide more wellness opportunities.

“That is a package that is unparalleled in the health service industry,” Douglass said.

The clinic is also flexible, Douglass said.

“In times of need, we really try to meet the needs,” she said. “For example, last year during the flu season, we had to expand our hours and flip some appointments so we could accommodate everyone that was having flu problems.

Grow Well’s staff of four includes Douglass; Jami Weaver-Warren, APRN; office manager Roxanna Parral, who is bilingual and helps with interpreting; and Julie Tull, a registered dietician.

Di Palo said patients are asked to complete a survey following their visit.

Based on 1,004 surveys as of Oct. 31, 99 percent of patients said they had a pleasant interaction with the front desk, 93 percent of visits were on time, 98.7 percent of patients said scheduling an appointment was at their convenience, and 99.3 percent of patients said all of their questions and concerns were answered during their visit.

Allen said Tuesday's presentation served as a review of the program.

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com.