BALDWIN, Wis.—Contract manufacturer Nolato Medical Solutions completed an $18 million expansion in Baldwin that adds 27,000 square feet of production and clean room space, 75 employees, and a health care clinic for a community partnership.
The fully staffed clinic was built onto the existing 100,000-sq.-ft. facility to provide primary care to Nolato's 270 employees, who manufacture silicone and plastic components and devices for the medical and pharmaceutical industries.
Although the clinic is located at the business, also known as Nolato Contour, it will serve up to 1,200 people and has its own entrance for patients of the other partners, in the program, including a metal product fabricator and the Baldwin-Woodville Area School District. The organizations pay a fixed amount per worker and family member so patients can receive a wide variety of care for a flat fee of $25 per visit. Patients have no deductibles, copays or coinsurance costs. In addition, they can get generic medicine and some lab work at no charge.
"Their out-of-pocket costs have significantly changed, and we hope that their health is significantly changed for the better, too," Nolato Medical Solutions' President and Managing Director Russell Steele said in a phone interview.
The clinic is staffed by a nurse practitioner and medical assistants who offer primary care for ear, nose and throat infections, gastrointestinal problems, skin rashes, minor fractures and more. They also manage chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis and depression, and treat occupational health issues from repetitive-movement injuries to sleep apnea.
"Maintaining a healthy workforce translates to retaining a happier workforce," Steele said. "With deductibles and rates going higher all the time, our employees often waited to seek treatment until it was a major issue. We believe this happened because people are not accessing primary care early enough. That's what we'll be offering. Hopefully the convenience of having the clinic here encourages people to go."
The Be Well Clinic
Nolato and its partners belong to a program run by Activate Healthcare, an Indianapolis-based company that has provided on-site or near-site health care to businesses and school systems since 2010.
Called the Be Well Clinic in a nod to the Baldwin-Woodville schools partner, the clinic has three exam rooms, offices and a lab. It is open 40 hours on weekdays for now but that will change with the patients' needs.
"Because we are a 24/7 operation, we'll vary those hours so they're accessible to people as they're coming into work or getting off work or whatever is convenient," Steele said.
The clinic staff schedules appointments every half hour and offers same-day and next-day availability for acute health issues. The format allows patients to be seen on time and know they can spend 30 minutes going over their health concerns.
"That's a very different appointment than most people are used to," Steele said. "If you have two or three or four issues, you can talk about them all. It could be your weight or the mole on your skin or high blood pressure. Generic drugs and lab tests are also part of the $25 fee. This really should encourage participation."
Nolato offers a high-deductible insurance plan for medical coverage in a preferred network if the clinic staff can't handle a health problem, but even then some assistance is given.
"We've put in what we call concierge services to help everyone understand the quality and cost of care at other places," Steele said. "Some people don't recognize the substantial difference between particular providers."
Eric Russell, superintendent of Baldwin-Woodville schools, said that about 150 district employees plus an additional 300 spouses and dependents will have access to the Be Well Clinic. Like Nolato, they all have two expectations: quality healthcare and cost controls, Russell said in an email.
The school district's projected savings are about $212,000, or 10 percent of total medical spending, according to an Activate Healthcare presentation to the Board of Education. The biggest saving assumes that 35 percent of primary care services currently provided by outside physicians will be handled at the clinic.
Activate Healthcare also says the primary care clinic should reduce the district's emergency room services by 25 percent and specialist services by 8 percent as more care shifts to the clinic staff to provide or "guide referrals more effectively."
In addition, the health care provider says primary care management decreases costly diagnostic tests, urgent care visits, hospital admissions and time taken off work for doctor appointments.
The workload at Nolato Medical Solutions, which is the U.S. operations of Swedish injection molder Nolato A.B., has ticked up along with other parts of the Torekov-based company. In 2018, Nolato A.B. had its best year in the company's 81-year history. Sales increased 21 percent to 8.$6.7 billion and operating profit was up to 763 million.
In the medical solutions division, sales rose to $1.9 billion, which, adjusted for currency, is an increase of 12 percent. Sales were up in both medical devices and pharmaceutical packaging, company officials said, pointing to "high" levels of project activity for autoinjectors for biological medication, insulin products and incontinence products.
In Wisconsin, Steele said Nolato manufactures insulin products and the autoinjectors, which are used for a class of large-molecule drugs that need more force for injection than typical syringes.
The expansion of the U.S. manufacturing space is driven by customer growth in the upper Midwest. Nolato invested in two 5,000-sq.-ft. Class 8 clean rooms, which each can house 22 injection molding machines with clamping forces of 40-400 tons with full assembly lines.
One of the clean rooms has already been exclusively sold to an existing customer for a drug delivery product made up of several components, Steele said. The other clean room was designed to be flexible with a 7.5 ton crane to service bigger tools.
All of Nolato Medical's employees are full time except those in the job recruitment program, and even they can go to the clinic for $25.
"We don't use temps. That's not our model," Steele said. "All of our work is medical-related so the education and retention of people is a big deal."
The $18 million investment also includes point-of-use chilling systems to reduce electrical loads and eliminate the need for a central chiller as well as a handful of new molding machines.
Nolato's U.S. operations aren't landlocked either. Steele said the company will consider investing in two more expansions of similar in size and scope if warranted by project activity.
"The pace of growth is picking up rapidly here so we need healthy good people," Steele said.
Nolato Medical Solutions is a business unit of Nolato A.B. along with Nolato Industrial and Nolato Integrated Services. Nolato A.B. has 25 sites in Europe, Asia and North America.