Executive physicals offer the royal treatment
What do you get for a $7,500 executive physical?
Doug Shafer, a stressed-out vintner in California’s Napa Valley, was willing to fork over the cash to find out.
At 7:35 a.m. on a recent Wednesday, Shafer pulled a black BMW X5 into a reserved parking space at St. Helena Hospital, a regional medical center overlooking vineyards. A nurse escorted him to his room, where every detail was personalized.
The medical staff wore blue, his favorite color. His room was blue too. The stereo was blasting the Rolling Stones, his favorite group. Inside a gym bag, emblazoned with his initials, was a golf magazine (he loves golf) and a biography of JFK (he’s a fan). There was also a heart-rate monitor, a pedometer and a strengthening tool that could fit into the suitcase of a man who travels a lot.
Shafer would spend the next 11 hours being tested, diagnosed, analyzed and counseled. He would meet with a nutritionist, a behavioral psychologist, an exercise physiologist and the Harvard-trained doctor who runs the program. His body would be scanned by the most up-to-date technology; his blood would be drawn and sent to specialized labs. There would be lots of time with the doctor – and no waiting. At the end of the day, Shafer would leave with a 3-inch-thick binder containing a personalized plan on how to live a more healthful life.
And just in case Shafer might be tempted to stash the binder and his new heart-rate monitor in a back closet, the doctor would follow up four times during the year to make sure he was staying on track to meet his new goals.
The One program at St. Helena offers a peek at preventive medicine at the very top tier. It’s what medicine would look like if everyone had access to the latest technology, the latest tests and research, and a team of physicians and nurses who would spend hours on your health.
The One program at St. Helena is among a small but growing number of locations across the United States that are taking the notion of the executive physical a step further. These programs combine top-notch doctors and cutting-edge medical screenings with a new emphasis on wellness programs that include counseling on nutrition, fitness and lifestyle change. And some of these programs add another enticement: scenic locales and the pampering services of a luxury spa.
In the last year, Canyon Ranch, the high-end spa in Tucson, Ariz., and St. Helena Hospital in Napa have launched executive health packages that pair traditional medical services with the growing demand for preventive and nontraditional health care. Scripps Health in San Diego plans to open the Dickinson & Gooding Center for Early Detection in September, which will offer similar health packages, and Green Valley Spa in St. George, Utah, broadened its medical assessment and lifestyle modification program two years ago. The Raj, a spa in Fairfield, Iowa, which specializes in ayurveda, the traditional health-care system of India, now offers an eight-day Executive Health Program that includes standard medical tests, a health analysis by an ayurvedic physician, a lifestyle plan and a course in transcendental meditation for managing.
“Most of today’s major illnesses are related to lifestyle,” said Dr. Heather Pena, a former medical director at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Monica, Calif., before helping to found the St. Helena program in 2003. “For some reason, people have lost their footing as far as knowing how to have a healthy lifestyle.”
Because of the prohibitive cost – from $4,695 to $7,800 – most of us may never experience such a thorough medical and lifestyle makeover or have the luxury of spending more than a few rushed minutes with our physicians to ask questions.
“If there is any downside to this, it is that it costs a lot of money,” said Tedd Mitchell, medical director of the Cooper Wellness Program at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. “A lot of patients need that type of attention, and it is just beyond their means to pay for it.”