Company doctor is a term used to describe any physician hired by an employer to deal with medical situations among the workforce. These doctors may provide care for free and charge the employer directly, or they might work for a reduced fee. Sometimes company doctors are only present to deal with people being injured on the job, but in other cases, they may provide any kind of medical advice or service that employees require. The whole idea behind having a company doctor is that an employer can keep the workforce healthier and reduce overall medical overhead while simultaneously providing an attractive service to lure in potential workers.
In the past, some companies where known to use a company doctor in an unethical manner. A common problem was that the doctors would tend to worry more about the company than the patients. For example, a company doctor might try to urge someone to come back from an injury before he or she was really healed. These sorts of ethical problems became so severe that some governments passed special laws to deal with them, and for a long time, businesses generally stopped using company doctors.
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Eventually, rising health costs caused some employers to reexamine the idea of using in-house medical care for workers, and many large companies added walk-in health clinics to their places of employment. In these situations, the health care providers are generally operating as independent outside companies and they are being paid on contract to provide services. This arrangement is meant to reduce any ethical difficulties since the doctors themselves are working for the outside provider and technically not working for the company they are servicing.
Workers are often given insurance discounts if they agree to use the company doctor. The companies also get a discount, and sometimes the savings can be significant. One reason for the cost savings is that company doctors are more careful about sending people for visits to expensive specialists. There is a general agreement among some doctors that specialists are sometimes overused, and this can often be a big cause of overblown health care costs.
The extent of the services provided by company doctors varies. Some can only offer basic care and prescribe medications for simple illnesses, while others may be able to handle major emergencies and severe injuries like broken bones. Some companies are also urging employees to visit the company doctor for basic health advice so that they can improve the overall healthiness of their workforce.