Penn Medicine starts program to keep workers healthy and save on costs

Lynne Adkins
January 26, 2019 - 3:07 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia-area health care system has implemented a program designed to keep workers healthy and on the job.

FirstCall gives more than 60,000 workers at Penn Medicine free access to a health care provider anytime of the day, every day. 

Dr. Krisda Chaiyachati, the program's medical director says workers call the hotline and get a phone or video conference appointment within minutes. This way, they don't have to take a day off to visit the physician; they can do it on a work break. 

"The reason it was created, and what we believe the way in which it helps patients, is the fact that it prevents them from going to the emergency department," Chaiyachati said. "And I think even more importantly, it gives them access to healthcare, particularly for employees who have really busy lives and struggle to take time off or find time after work to seek health care when they need it."

He says each call saves the company nearly $200 in health care costs.

"That's really just avoidance of visits to the emergency department or hospital stay," he said. "On one hand, it's really kind of an access thing, where they can access the provider early in the process. But  I think the second part too is that we're able to be kind of convenience model kind of late at night or early evenings, when the emergency department or urgent care are the only options."

He says non-medical type companies are trying this model too, contracting with doctors and nurses to handle the calls.