Why daylong health programs, initially targeted at C-suite execs, are growing in popularity with all kinds of clients

On what otherwise would be a standard 9-to-5 workday, clients check in for executive health programs for an all-day, head-to-toe evaluation that mixes luxury with the latest preventative health tools across a wide range of health specialties.

But those who can either afford the programs (and their price tag of upward of $10,000 or more), or are offered it as a company perk, haven’t started to come away feeling like they’ve seen enough doctors in one day to last an entire lifetime.

Local health systems running these programs said clients have left their extensive screenings satisfied — ready to return in a few years and recommend it to others in the meantime. That’s why they’re nearly all making investments in these programs, even if the pandemic represented a preventative health intermission for many.

Dr. Dean Padavan. (Atlantic Health System)

One of the state’s leaders in the niche since its 2011 launch, Atlantic Medical Group‘s Executive Health Program saw only a temporary interruption of its regular operation at Morristown Medical Center. The program, which even offers an overnight stay at a 4-star hotel to its clients, has resumed a steady growth trajectory since, according to Dr. Dean Padavan.

“We took a dip, like everyone else in health care, during the COVID year, but we’ve rebounded nicely,” he said. “Every year since, our volume has increased.”

In order to achieve that growth, New Jersey’s high-end health exams and consultations have had to break from a strong association between the programs and their namesake clients: executives.

Padavan said they view it as a misconception that their program is just meant for corporations and the C-suite leaders they’re going the extra mile for to ensure a clean bill of health.

At this point, almost a third of the program’s clients don’t arrive as part of an arrangement a company makes. They’re self-referrals.

“They’ve heard about the program, and want to be able to try this personalized medicine experience for themselves,” Padavan said. “And, initially, we were really just geared toward companies. But, because of our reputation and the Atlantic brand, we’ve really sparked a lot of interest outside of just companies.”

Dr. Marielaina DeRose. (Englewood Health)

Dr. Marielaina DeRose, one of the lead physicians for Englewood Health‘s Braverman Family Executive Wellness Program, articulated that there was a similar focus at her institution. The program’s website prominently markets reduced group rates for business colleagues as well as family members.

“While ‘executive’ might be in the name, it’s not just for those busy executives,” DeRose said. “It’s also geared toward individuals busy with work and family, struggling to find time to get to doctor’s appointments and diagnostic testing, who want a comprehensive medical evaluation.”

Executives made sense as the starting place for finding clients interested in an entire day’s worth of exams, tests and consultations — preventative health activities that might be difficult to find the time for in separate appointments in the course of running a business otherwise.

Companies are also aware of the material effect of an executive’s health. In a headline event more than a decade ago, the death of Steve Jobs led to a temporary tumble of Apple’s stock price.

Executive health programs also were designed with a concierge approach that would be familiar to highly compensated company leaders. They’re ushered into quiet, private corners of health care settings (and sometimes even offered a ride there) in small groups daily.

Once there, clients are escorted around facilities for a series of tests meant to find everything from vitamin deficiencies to plaque buildup in arteries to early signs of cancer.

They also meet with dietitians, exercise physiologists, sleep hygienists and other specialists to develop wellness plans to complement the screening. That component, the integration of lifestyle modifications, has taken on even more relevance over time.

“A lot of the features of living today have made our lives less physically active,” DeRose said. “Everything decreases your ability to get exercise and burn calories.”

By the visit’s end, clients are also alerted to any concerning findings in earlier testing (sometimes partly conducted prior to the client’s arrival) that might require follow-up diagnostic testing with specialists.

“It’s a long day, and a six-hour-long appointment with a lot of information coming at them can be almost overwhelming,” DeRose said. “But, regardless, they’re thrilled to be part of this experience. And they often leave feeling empowered when it comes to their health.”

DeRose said the program’s appointment calendar remains solidly booked. The pandemic’s flexible work arrangements, she added, certainly haven’t hurt someone’s ability to fit a day devoted to their health into their schedule.

Jose Lozano. (File photo)

Jose Lozano, a senior vice president of strategic business partnerships for Hackensack Meridian Health, said that, not only are individuals more able to carve out blocks of time for these screenings — more of them now want to.

“As a result, (the health care industry) has seen an uptick in these one-stop shops,” Lozano said. “The pandemic just shed more light on the fact that folks want to remain healthy, and that they might be unaware of underlying health issues or had issues that they may have neglected.”

Their organization has seen enough of an increase in volume and requests to look at expanding its executive health offering to be more comprehensive at a new site, the organization’s under-construction ON3 ambulatory care and medical school campus in Clifton.

“This new location will be easily accessible to New York, and we know some companies and individuals (there) are looking for executive health programs like this,” Lozano said.

Dr. Michael Farber. (Hackensack Meridian Health)

Dr. Michael Farber, medical director of executive health at Hackensack Meridian Health, is enthusiastic about the new home for their team of specialists and powerful screening tools, which can prove potentially life-saving.

“We detect cancer, coronary disease and other conditions that may not have exhibited symptoms at the time of visit,” he said. “We have coronary calcium scoring that has identified people with early coronary disease, imaging to find aneurysms, various types of cancer — including breast, kidney, lung, pancreas and melanoma.”

Executive health programs attest to advances over the years in how they go about assigning health risk status to a client, or “risk stratification,” as they call it. There are also new forms of screening that have been adopted over the years, and more on the horizon still being explored.

Atlantic’s Padavan said one of those future technologies could be “liquid DNA tests,” a still-under-investigation blood test that searches out circulating tumor DNA in the blood to aid in the early detection of cancer.

“We’re interested in seeing where that goes,” he said. “We’re always going to look into more advanced ways of keeping people healthy. We’ll keep doing that in this program as it continues to grow.”