Collaborative efforts at near-site primary care clinic result in cost savings and better health outcomes for small Indiana community

| April 11, 2022

Learn how Central Noble Community Schools and Noble County effectively serve their employees with a WeCare tlc health center


Industry: Education | Government 

Client: Central Noble Community Schools | Noble County Government 

Location: Albion, Indiana

Serving: 311 employees


Benefits

  • Cost savings through affordable employee healthcare 
  • Insurance rates lower than medical inflation over the past decade
  • Decrease in staff turnover
  • Improvement of healthcare outcomes
  • ​​Utilization of the health center as a recruitment tool
  • Reduction in absenteeism 


Solutions


Overview

Over the past 14 years, Noble County, Indiana and Central Noble Community Schools achieved cost savings and improved employee health outcomes through the utilization of the WeCare tlc Clinic of Central Noble, a near-site collaborative health center

The partnership between the county government, school system, and WeCare tlc allows employees to receive advanced primary care services that results in insurance rates lagging medical inflation, decrease in staff turnover, and reduction in absenteeism. 


Noble County

Covering 420 square miles with the town of Albion at the center, Noble County, Indiana is primarily an agricultural community that is populated by over 45,000 people and located northwest of Fort Wayne. 

Employing 230 residents, the county government serves its people through a variety of services from the sheriff to highway departments. 

Jackie Knafel, Noble County Coordinator, was a part of the team that established the WeCare tlc Clinic of Central Noble nearly 15 years ago and has been a proponent of it ever since. “Our clinic has become the medical family for a lot of our employees,” says Jackie. “It is a huge benefit that would cause a major upset among our employees if we ever took it away. I have always said: If I am not remembered for anything else here at Noble County, I hope I am remembered for being a part of bringing the clinic here.”


Central Noble Community Schools

Serving approximately 1,200 students in the heart of scenic Noble County, Central Noble Community Schools gives today’s students the opportunity to become tomorrow’s leaders by providing outstanding K-12 education.

The school corporation provides physical resources to students such as facilities and equipment, involves community members in the academic, sporting, and cultural activities of the school, and encourages their youth and community members to work together to develop a greater understanding of the potential of their community.

“There are a lot of innovative initiatives at our schools that tie into Albion’s agricultural community,” shares Tyler Osenbaugh, Business Manager at Central Noble Community Schools. “Within our elementary schools, we have a lot of exciting food safety and sustainability programs for the students like making maple syrup, raising bees for honey, and preparation of items in a newly constructed food lab that are incorporated into our math and science curriculums. Our high school has a unique agricultural department that continues the elementary schools’ lessons and provides innovative classes that highlight our agribusiness community.” 

Since joining the corporation a couple of years ago, Tyler has become a huge proponent of the well-established WeCare tlc clinic. “When I started at Central Noble, the people I spoke with at WeCare tlc would not have thought that I would be such a fan of the clinic today because I was looking at our lower utilization rate at the time and pointing the finger when the finger need to be pointed at us because of our lack of involvement.” 


Challenge

Before the clinic was established in December 2008, Jackie was searching for ways to decrease Noble County’s healthcare costs since it was one of the most expensive line items on the budget. “Since county government historically does not pay a lot, employees need to be supplemented with benefits like quality healthcare,” explains Jackie. “We also had a responsibility to taxpayers to find ways to control our healthcare costs, and opening a clinic quickly stuck out as the best option on our list of proposed solutions.”

At the time, Jackie spoke with the person in Tyler’s position at Central Noble Community Schools and found that he had already begun plans to open an employer-sponsored health center. The pair realized that collaborating with one another to open a clinic would further lower their costs and officially began the partnership. 

“Central Noble made it very easy for us to commit to opening the clinic because they provided many items like the equipment and space that removed a lot of unknown startup costs for the county,” shares Jackie.  

Before opening the clinic, both the county government and school system were battling extremely high rates at Northeast Indiana’s largest not-for-profit healthcare provider that dominates the county’s healthcare system. 

“Since we are in a rural area there is not much in the way of competition for the provision of medical services,” says Tyler. “The lack of competition has allowed our county’s predominant healthcare provider to become one of the most expensive healthcare networks in the country.”

During Jackie and her colleague’s search to start the clinic, they found WeCare tlc to be the perfect partner to help them offer a high-quality, cost-effective advanced primary care clinic to their employees that could fully integrate into their tight-knit community. 


Solution

Since the WeCare tlc Clinic of Central Noble’s opening in 2008, utilization rates have steadily increased, resulting in the clinic becoming the primary medical home for many of the county and school corporation’s employees and families.

Employees on the Noble County health plan can access the services offered at the clinic and 85% or more of those people have utilized the clinic at one time or another.

As for Central Noble Community Schools, employees and families on the health plan can utilize the health center, plus they have a special category for bus drivers to pay for clinic-only access which has helped with retention rates among a nationwide shortage. The clinic allows employees to receive excellent care from compassionate staff at a significantly lower rate than is available anywhere else in town.

The WeCare tlc Clinic of Central Noble is rooted in the small-town, agricultural community of Albion, making their patients feel at home with a medical team made up of local residents. 


Outcomes

With cost savings the main priority when opening, the WeCare tlc Clinic of Central Noble has effectively enabled the county government and school corporation to provide quality healthcare in an affordable manner.

“After our third year of operations, we conducted studies comparing the clinic to what it would have cost for our employees to utilize our local hospital and we saved about $1.3 million in three years,” shares Jackie. 

Our insurance rates have lagged medical inflation over the past decade,” Tyler adds. “The only way that could be possible is that WeCare has allowed us to do enough cost avoidance to stay lower than medical inflation and beholden to our community’s major healthcare provider that has exceeded the medical inflation rate.”

The cost savings experienced by Central Noble Community Schools through the clinic is not just seen in the dollar amount on their checks, but also in their low turnover rates and improvement of healthcare outcomes. Tyler is also confident that they have experienced immeasurable cost avoidance through the preventative nature of care at the clinic with better treatment for chronic conditions and avoidance of emergent care visits. 

Noble County experiences immeasurable cost savings as well through the shock claims that were avoided, thanks to the preventative care practiced at the health center. 

With data from WeCare tlc’s Clinical Analysis Toolkit (CAT), our reports on the success of the WeCare tlc Clinic of Central Noble found that:

Central Noble Community Schools 

  • 77% decrease in plan costs (over 8 years) for those with chronic conditions that utilize the health center. 
  • 87% of all eligible employees have utilized the health center since its opening in 2008. 
  • 43% of provider visits were for patients who designated the health center as their medical home.
  • 17% of the members utilizing the health center have not incurred a health plan claim.
  • 85% of patients with a diabetes diagnosis have their hemoglobin A1C within target.
  • 62% savings in outside lab orders completed inside the health center versus in the community for those on the health plan.

Noble County, Indiana Government  

  • 92% of patients surveyed indicated that the health center is their primary medical home.
  • 67% of all eligible employees have utilized the health center since its opening in 2008.  
  • 43% of provider visits were for patients who designated the health center as their medical home.
  • 25% of the members utilizing the health center have not incurred a health plan claim.
  • 78% of patients with a diabetes diagnosis have their hemoglobin A1C within target.
  • 71% savings in outside lab orders completed inside the health center versus in the community for those on the health plan.

The consistent WeCare tlc medical team has played a vital role in the success of the clinic over the years. “Our medical team is made up of long-time community residents that our patients feel comfortable with,” explains Jackie. “I give all the credit in the world for our success to the staff. There is no doubt about that.”

“It is the personal touch from the staff that really makes this clinic successful,” echoes Tyler of Jackie’s sentiments. “The medical team is a part of our team. They know and care about our employees and work with us to keep our staff healthy in a caring, flexible, and professional manner.”

“If our nurses see you at a football or basketball game, they are the first one to say ‘Hey you have not been in for your annual physical, you better get in there,’ Jackie shares. Tyler adds on to Jackie’s point saying, “Our medical team does not call people out to get dollars into the clinic, but because they genuinely care about the health and well-being of the people that they serve.” 

The long-standing success of the WeCare tlc Clinic of Central Noble is also apparent in the fact that Central Noble Community Schools has three generations of a family that visit the clinic.

“We had a young, new employee with a family that had received care from our clinic for most of his life since he is the son of an employee,” shares Tyler. “He was going to have to take off work to take his daughter to an urgent care clinic since she was one week shy of her second birthday which is the minimum age requirement for clinic visits. When we contacted the staff at the clinic, they agreed to treat his daughter, saving him money and the school corporation his valuable time. It was heartwarming to see a third generation benefitting from the caring staff of the WeCare tlc clinic.”

Tyler and his fellow leaders at Central Noble Community Schools make a concerted effort to ensure their employees remain educated on the services available at the WeCare tlc clinic. “It is our job to work with WeCare tlc to learn how we put the tools in the hands of our people to understand that their best option is to receive care at the clinic whenever possible,” shares Tyler. “We even leverage the clinic as a recruiting tool for all prospective employees by highlighting its accessibility and quality of care.”

Additionally, the clinic has reduced absenteeism for both Central Noble and Noble County because their employees have nearby access to the clinic which no longer requires them to take a half or full day off work for a doctor’s visit. 


Next Steps

In addition to continually maintaining and promoting the clinic, the team is open to slightly expanding by adding a strategic, local collaborator that would allow them to increase the amount of WeCare tlc services at the clinic for their employees. 

“We have opted to keep our clinic small and personal with a trusted staff to ensure its long-term success,” explains Jackie. “Small additions to the clinic would be good because they could help with costs while still keeping our local focus to avoid losing value.”

The team will also continue educating their staff on the benefits of the clinic for their overall well-being and why it is a more cost-effective option than the town’s dominating corporate healthcare network. 


Final Thoughts 

“Cost was our main priority when we first started the clinic, but it has developed into a lot more than that,” shares Jackie. “Our expectations for people using the clinic have been exceeded. All the promotion in the world does not take the place of word of mouth—people have a good experience at the clinic and they share that with their colleagues and that is what really drives our increase in utilization rate.” 

“Healthcare has changed in our lifetime,” explains Tyler. “The family doctor knowing you very well is not the norm anymore, but that is what we have at our clinic and we get all the benefits associated with it.”

“Our relationship with Central Noble and Noble County has been one of our most successful, and only improved over the years,” says Lauren Kirschner, Director of Client Services at WeCare tlc. “Their team truly understands that they have to do their part to educate their employees and promote the clinic, and we really appreciate their efforts and genuine understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish together.”


Ready to improve the health of your workforce? We’re here to help! Take advantage of our experience offering advanced primary care to companies and organizations across the U.S. at our onsite and near-site health centers.


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