The Healthy Executive

Your Executive Health Program Is Failing You

Is your executive health program (EHP) failing you?

Here’s a simple way to tell:

  • Has your health and fitness improved since your last EHP checkup?
    • If yes, then your EHP is working.
    • If no, then your EHP is not working.

Most of my clients fall in the second category. Despite annual EHP check-ups they continued to gain weight and lose muscle.

Why does this happen? What can you do about it?

Reading Time: 1.5 minutes (1,000 words @ 600 wpm[1]).


The Typical EHP Experience

Strategic CEO’s and Board of Directors worry about “key man risk” and as a result enroll their executives into an EHP. They may also offer Employee Wellness Programs or health coaching.

My firsthand EHP experiences includes Cleveland Clinic (Toronto) and Life Line (Silicon Valley). My screenings took about 4 hours and included the following diagnostics:

  • Treadmill stress test (electrocardiogram)
  • Blood work
  • Visceral ultrasound
  • Lung capacity analysis
  • Bone Density analysis
  • Blood Pressure and peripheral circulation
  • Hearing/Eyesight assessment
  • Health lifestyle questionnaire & Framingham heart risk assessment
  • Doctor consult (15-20 minutes)
  • Online report/portal to personal data

For additional fees, EHP testing can also include:

EHP PRO’s

  • Convenience
    • EHP’s can be a time-saver for busy executives.
  • Consistency
    • Most men can’t remember the last time they saw their doctor,
    • EHP’s report useful “year-over-year” trends in heath & fitness markers.
  • Comprehensive
    • EHP screenings are more comprehensive than an annual doctor’s checkup.

EHP CON’s

  • Cost
    • The average executive physical ranges from $2,500 to $10,000 with an average cost of about $5,000.
  • False Negatives
    • Very few screening tests have been proven to identify diseases before they begin to cause noticeable problems.
    • Harvard Business Review notes that comprehensive physicals haven’t been shown to improve health outcomes across broad populations.
  • False Positives 
    • The more tests you do, the more likely one is to turn up as a “false positive”
      • This can can lead to unnecessary treatment
      • See Footnote below for how false positives occur
    • Lab report bias
      • “Ranges” in lab diagnostic reports are intrinsically biased towards unhealthy populations.
      • They are of limited value in determining whether you are in a healthy range.

How To Save $4999 (And Your Life)

It is estimated that 98% of all illness is environmental, while only 2% of disease can be traced to genetic disposition. Working as a stem cell researcher at Stanford University, Dr. Bruce Lipton uncovered a startling finding: Our genetic composition has very little influence on health.

This means the vast majority of us have genes that should enable us to live happy and healthy lives. A staggering 98% of diseases are the result of lifestyle choices.

In other words, we have a high degree of control well before having a heart attack, becoming diabetic, or getting cancer.

Here is a typical real-world example:

  • Metabolic Syndrome is a leading precursor to illness and disease caused by poor nutrition, stress, and being sedentary. It is diagnosed by cluster of at least three of these five conditions:
    1. Central abdominal obesity
    2. Elevated blood pressure
    3. Low HDL levels
    4. High triglycerides
    5. Elevated fasting blood glucose

For $5,000, an EHP will use a phlebotomist to draw your blood and send it to a lab to assess LDL, triglycerides, and glucose (items #3, #4, and #5 on the list).

For $1, you can measure abdominal obesity yourself (item #1 on the list). For free, you can measure your blood pressure almost at any pharmacy or using a smartphone app (item #2 on the list).

If already you know you are stressed, overweight, and sedentary do you really need to spend $4999 to have a medical lab technician confirm this to 3 decimal places?

What Doctors Think Of EHPs

Doctor’s opinions regarding executive health programs are split as follows:

  • One camp of doctors see EHP’s as unnecessary and expensive overkill.
  • Another camp of doctors view EHP’s as better than doing nothing.

According to Worth Magazine, here are 10 recognized executive health programs:

  • Cleveland Clinic Executive Health
  • Cooper Health & Wellness
  • Duke Executive Health
  • Johns Hopkins Executive & Preventative Health
  • Mayo Clinic Executive Health
  • MDVIP
  • Mount Sinai Hospital Executive Health
  • New York University Tisch Center for Men’s Health
  • Northwestern Executive Health
  • Penn Personalized Care

Why EHPs Don’t Work

I want to be clear upfront that I am neither pro-EHP or anti-EHP. If you can’t remember the last time you saw your doctor, then an EHP is definitely better than nothing. But EHP’s are an essentially a 1-day checkup, and an expensive one at that. Calling an EHP diagnostic report a ‘program’ that changes your health habits the other 364 days a year is a stretch.

The facts are:

  1. EHP’s are diagnostic not prognostic.
    • They are a trailing 12-month measure of previous diet and sedentary lifestyle choices.
    • Very few screening tests have been proven to identify diseases before they begin to cause noticeable problems.
  2. EHP’s are information products.
    • They are not designed to change habits and transform lifestyle behaviors (see infographic below).
    • EHP reports do not cover motivational issues related to will-power or health psychology.
  3. EHP’s are not covered by insurance.
    • EHP’s make money from out-of-pocket payment for services.
    • The majority of EHPs are paid for by employers.
  4. EHP report data is like a “DIY box of parts”.
    • It’s up to you to figure out what specific diet changes to make and which exercise are most effective.
    • EHP reports rarely deal with exercise programs, hormones (like cortisol from stress), micronutrients, or supplements.
  5. EHP doctors will not coach you on how to change your habits.
    • Their standard recommendation is to “lose weight, exercise more”.
    • Transformation coaching is time-intensive, low-margin, and not reimbursable.

“Executive health care programs aren’t huge money makers,” says Kevin Waters Kevin Waters, director of the Duke Executive Health Program at the Duke University Health System in Durham, N.C. “Most are lucky to break even. But there are other reasons for hospitals to start them besides profits, such as the prestige of having one, the prestigious clientele it brings to their institution, and out-of-pocket payment for services.”

Coach Health Online

EHP’s Inform But Don’t Transform

How To Get Results From Your EHP

As a leader, you know that:

“Information is only relevant in the context of a decision being made.”

Furthermore, every executive understands that:

“Decisions are easier to make than to implement.”

Therefore, your EHP report  is only as useful as your decision to implement it.

“This year, I actually enjoyed getting my executive physical.” — David C, client

If your EHP isn’t getting you results like this, consider heath coaching to make transformative changes to your diet and exercise habits.

As an executive health coach, I routinely use EHP data, lab results, and doctor’s reports to help busy leaders and executives lose weight and gain muscle.



Also published on Medium.

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