Huntsville Hospital Wants to Change How We Get Primary Care

With primary care doctors becoming harder to find, Huntsville Hospital’s Andrea Rosler is working to bring them directly to the city’s workers

A prevailing trend in modern medicine is asking how hospitals can reach patients in their own communities, thus negating their frequent trips to the emergency room. For Huntsville Hospital’s Andrea Rosler, that question extends to the caregivers as well. As vice president of human resources, Rosler has been instrumental in launching the hospital’s employee health clinic and pharmacy, as well as a corporate wellness program and disease wellness program. There, employees have a dedicated on-site spot for receiving fast, efficient healthcare with a doctor who knows them.

It’s been working, too. She’s seen the percentage of employees with diabetes drop from 11 percent to 8 percent, which is well below the average in Alabama. There’s also been sizable drops in medical costs, body mass index, and hemoglobin A1c results, not to mention absenteeism for issues such as hypertension.

Rosler’s vision of employer-sponsored healthcare isn’t just limited to the hospital, however. In 2014, Huntsville Hospital helped start the Local Government Health Clinic, which provides primary care treatment for Huntsville Utilities and Madison County commission employees and retirees, as well as their spouses and dependents. The clinic strives for convenience, positioning itself as a place where employees can pop in on their lunch break to have the doctor address anything from a head cold to a mysterious ache. In lieu of a copay, employees pay a monthly fee.

“It’s harder and harder to find a primary care physician as time goes on,” Rosler says. Dr. Joe Sharp, the clinic’s physician, agrees. “As is often the case in modern medicine, the primary doctor role is ever changing and a lot of patients don’t have family doctors,” he says. Feeling comfortable with your doctor, after all, is vital. “They feel at home here,” Dr. Sharp says of the clinic.

The clinic is only approaching its third year, but according to multiple testimonials, a number of employees credit it with saving their life. One employee, for example, was diagnosed with prostate cancer by Dr. Sharp, then referred to a specialist who successfully treated him. Another employee discovered he had leukemia when he thought he just had the flu.

The Local Government Health Clinic has been such a success that Huntsville will soon be opening a new employer-sponsored clinic for the city’s research park. Rosler believes clinics such as these will be integral to the future of healthcare.

“Hospitals live or die by volume,” Rosler says. “We know that in the future we’re going to have more incentive and physicians will have more incentive to keep people out of the hospital. It helps us begin to look at the new way to approach healthcare, and that’s to keep people out of the hospital.”