While the nationwide cost of medical services is soaring, the employees of the Pasco County School District are saving thousands of dollars on their health care.
Back in January, the district opened its first Health and Wellness Center in Land O’ Lakes. Over the next two months, centers opened in New Port Richey and Dade City.
Employees of the district can see a doctor, get X-rays, an ECG/EKG, lab work, and medications with no deductibles, co-pays, or out-of-pocket expenses. This program supplements the traditional medical insurance that is provided to employees by the district.
Appointments can be made online, or through a toll free number. Each patient is allocated 20 minutes with the doctor. The average wait time to see the doctor is less than seven minutes.
“This program is not only about cost-effective health care,” said Mary Tillman the director of employee benefits assistance and risk management (EBARM). “The employee receives superior care because they spend more time with the doctors.”
The Crowne Consulting Group, based in Ocoee, collaborates with Tennessee-based CareHere to manage the wellness center. The school district pays the company a fee for each employee.
CareHere’s philosophy is to provide services for early diagnosis of underlying medical problems, and to enhance a patient’s healthy lifestyle.
“Wellness and disease management is the strategy to reduce the trend of higher medical costs,” said Ray Tomlinson, president of Crowne Consulting, and vice president of CareHere Florida. “We have broken down all the barriers for patients to receive health care; cost, convenience and privacy. Twenty percent of our clientele hasn’t been to a doctor in five to 10 years.”
Tillman believes that the easiest way to reduce the cost of medical care is to get people healthy. The center provides a group of professionals that work on patient’s short- and long-term wellness. Registered nurses, dieticians, exercise physiologists, and social workers are part of the team. Programs such as smoking cessation, diabetes care, and healthy eating and weight loss are available to patients.
The Health and Wellness Center is on the cutting edge of health care reform.
“We use an electronic medical records system,” Tillman said. “Even our X-rays are digital. We can email X-rays to a patient’s primary care physician, or burn it to disc. Developing X-ray film is a thing of the past."
The Pasco school district is self insured. Tillman estimates that an office visit to the Wellness Center saves the district 50 percent over what a visit to a patient’s primary care physician would cost.
“The CareHere program has centers in 22 states,” said Tomlinson. “Pasco is the flagship. It is the largest school district and the largest employer in the CareHere system.
“It’s been a very pleasurable experience,” says patient Melanie Zomfrillo. “Both my husband and I have used the Heath Care Center quite often. I like the friendly atmosphere.”
Tillman says none of this could have happened without the support of Superintendent Heather Fiorentino. “She has been an invaluable help in putting this program together,” Tillman said.
Since late January, the three Health Care centers have cumulatively logged over 4,000 completed appointments.
“We’ve seen a lot of people,” said Tillman with a smile.
For more information, and business hours, you can access the Center on the web at pasco.k12.fl.us/benefits/hwc/.