See more of the story

For the 6,700 people who work at the Eagan campus of Thomson Reuters, it’s not easy to pop out during the workday for a doctor’s appointment. So, the financial data and news company in February opened a medical clinic that offers not only primary care, but also certain lab tests, physical therapy and health coaching. Based in New York, Thomson Reuters didn’t previously have an on-site clinic anywhere in its global operations, said Peter Warwick, the company’s executive vice president and chief people officer. They decided to try the concept at the legal publishing division in the Twin Cities because the corporate campus in Eagan is large and somewhat isolated. The clinic will be staffed by nurse practitioners from an outside company to boost privacy, confidentiality and security for workers who seek care. The share of employers with 500 or more workers has held steady over the past few years, but interest in such clinics increased in 2014 among those with more than 5,000 employees, according to the Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans. The consulting firm says the share of large employers ­surveyed with on-site or near-site clinics grew from 24 percent in 2013 to 29 percent last year.

Q: Why are you opening a ­medical clinic here?

A: I think it’s primarily because we want to provide a more supportive and productive environment for our employees. …

If you’re out here in Eagan, not in the city center location, most people come here with their own vehicles. Calling on clinics and doing health [care] is actually a bigger deal for many of them. You can’t just slip to the next street at lunch time, or anything like that. And so we’ve provided this environment here so that we can make life a lot more convenient for our employees. …

It makes a lot of sense from both a people point of view, and a business point of view as well — because we’re obviously going to improve productivity if people are actually spending more time on campus. We’re going to improve productivity if there’s less absenteeism. And our costs ultimately will be less if our employees are spending less on health care and that kind of thing. That’s really what a lot of companies are doing now — they’re looking at the return on investment.

Q: Did you get a sense from employees that they were spending a lot of time getting to off-campus clinics?

A: We always try to be responsive to what we’re hearing from our employees. And I think the one common theme that you would hear in the Twin Cities, and you’d hear this in many other places as well, is people really trying to balance work and life.

I think it’s quite interesting with the younger generation — the millennial generation of employees, [who are] in their 20s, I guess, and early 30s. These are not people that normally would be so interested in health care, benefits and that kind of thing. And yet what those employees are also telling us is that they want to have full experience through their work. For that generation of employees, being able to provide things like health facilities and so on is part of that sort of totality.

Q: When you think about the cost of running a clinic, do you expect that it will generate some offsetting savings?

A: We believe it will pay for itself. But it doesn’t pay for itself in a very sort of linear or direct sort of way. Because the way you look at the cost-benefit analysis is that you first of all look directly at it being a tool to attract and retain the best ­people. And you’re confident the best people will give you better business results.

Secondly, you believe that it will actually make employees more productive, because they’ll be healthier and they will be able to stay longer on campus.

And then on top of that, because we’re in the American health care system, … you would have less expenditure by your employees on health and sickness and that kind of thing. [So, there’s] benefit from the point of view of your costs in health care.

The actual incidence of health care costs to employees in the United States is very often much higher than it is in European companies, or something like that. So the cost-benefit of being able to really improve the health of employees through the interventions that you make is always, I think, going to be amongst the greatest in the United States.

Q: Why do you think health care is more expensive for ­employers here?

A: It’s because of the sort of more socialized medicine that you find say in European countries, [where] there isn’t quite the same sort of reliance on private health insurance for the broad mass of employees that we have in the United States. …

It’s certainly more in line of sight for employers. I don’t know enough to compare the overall cost of health care from one country to another. But I do know that the United States is one of those countries where you can make a bigger impact, more quickly and effectively, than many other countries.

Q: Part of your title is “chief people officer.” What does that mean?

A: I’m the head of human resources … [but] I’m not from a human resources background. And so I kind of thought I needed a slightly different title.

I prefer to think of employees as people, rather than human resources.

Christopher Snowbeck • 612-673-4744

Twitter: @chrissnowbeck