New clinics to provide more immediate healthcare for truckers
By Joel Dandrea06 January 2023
In a win for the trucking industry, initial funding is in place to open 60 medical clinics across the U.S. over the next two years to serve as a healthcare network aimed at serving truckers, other travelers and folks living in rural areas.
Developed by medical services company Interstate Health Systems (IHS), the endeavor’s intent is to establish a network of primary care, urgent care and telemedicine services along the nation’s interstate highway system – which brings IHS one step closer to breaking what it calls the long-standing healthcare barriers faced by the nation’s 3.5 million professional truck drivers. The plan also introduces a new model for serving the healthcare needs of rural Americans and interstate travelers.
The network will comprise a technology platform that integrates with trucking company platforms and includes real-time services and a unified prescription service network. IHS has an even larger plan in place over the long-term. Over the next six years, the company plans to build more than 300 urgent care medical clinics near truck stops and travel centers.
In doing so, IHS will be able to deliver more immediate healthcare to nearly 20 million veterans who can now select their provider of choice through the Veterans Community, as well as nearly 50 million Americans currently living in medically underserved areas.
Part of the plan’s financial backing comes from the trucking industry itself. IHS maintained that it has received support from various private investors, many of whom are veteran transportation and technology industry executives.
Easier access for truck drivers
The health and wellness of truck drivers remains an ever-present piece of a larger national conversation. Long hours, a sedentary lifestyle and rigors of the job lead to a higher incidence of health problems among truckers. More than half are obese, the government said, compared to 26 percent of all Americans. Truckers are 50 percent more likely to have diabetes, and 87 percent have high blood pressure (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine). Only eight percent report regularly exercising – compared to nearly half of the general population.
This affects not only their health and their life expectancy, which is considerably shorter, but also their livelihood. More than half of drivers have one or more chronic health conditions that leads the Department of Transportation to certify them for a commercial driver’s license for less than the two-year maximum: one year, six months, or even three months.
But research shows that once truck drivers become established patients, around 60 percent make the lifestyle changes needed to live healthier lives, like better eating, more physical activity and taking medications and getting regular care to manage chronic health conditions. It’s the hope at IHS that easier access to more clinics will encourage truck drivers to become established patients.
In a recent statement on behalf of Pilot Flying J, which has implemented a nationwide partnership with Urgent-Care clinics in the past several years, Senior Facility Revenue Manager Scott Klepper said, “Healthier drivers could lead to less turnover. The American Trucking Associations puts driver turnover at more than eighty percent. And the average cost for a trucking company to replace a driver is around five thousand dollars.”
Klepper expounded on the general formula behind what Pilot Flying J, and similar initiatives like the one IHS is rolling out, are attempting to ultimately achieve.
“What we’re trying to do is act as a preventive agency where they can keep their job, we can keep them healthy, we can create care plans for them and teach them how to stay healthy,” he said. “No one wants to be unhealthy. This is their bread and butter – this is how they pay their bills. And a lot of them want to stay healthy for the long-term, for their children and grandchildren.”