Press Room

Protecting key assets




At a time when small businesses and consumers are struggling to pay for skyrocketing health care increases, big companies such as Walt Disney Co. and Darden Restaurants are spending up to $3,500 per year on health exams for their top executives.

These daylong "executive health programs" can save a company millions of dollars, according to a study published in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Further, a 2002 study by the University of Michigan found that executives who had regular physicals made 20 percent fewer health claims, and took 45 percent fewer sick days than executives who didn't.

Such programs are intensive, in-depth health assessments for CEOs and vice presidents that attempt to address health and wellness needs in quick and efficient ways. Most of the testing for a physical, for example, happens in one day, with results available almost immediately. VIPs also get direct access to specialists without having to wait weeks for an appointment.

One such program, Rippe Health Assessment at Florida Hospital Celebration Health, was developed in 1998 to fill a need in Orlando, as the next nearest comparable program is at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

Dr. James Rippe, a cardiologist and founder of Rippe Health Assessment, designed the program for Florida Hospital to focus on the prevention of disease through lifestyle changes. He's one of the leading advocates for lifestyle medicine and the author of more than 40 books on health.

"Our bad habits cause tremendous problems," says Rippe. "More than half of mortality is due to what we do to ourselves. But in medicine, unfortunately, we don't normally spend a lot of time talking about it."

Life-saving experience

The program now sees about 700 patients a year, providing executives with a comprehensive all-day physical, as well as advice on how to change their lifestyles to ensure they have optimal health.

At Rippe Health Assessment, a typical appointment begins with a battery of tests that are returned within hours. The rest of the day is tailored to coordinate with that information.

Patients spend an average of 90 minutes with a physician. Patients also meet with a pharmacist who goes over the possible interactions of everything from medications to dietary supplements.

Further, a registered dietitian reviews the food journal patients must keep for at least three days prior, and makes dietary suggestions. Finally, an exercise physiologist develops an exercise prescription for the patient and even walks them through it at the center's posh 60,000-square-foot fitness center.

Patients leave with a written summary, and three weeks later they get an extensive 70-page report on their health.

So much attention and convenience doesn't come cheap: The typical visit costs about $3,500, and the institute doesn't accept insurance. However, the program has resulted in the early diagnosis and treatment of such health conditions as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, says Amy Stachnik, director of client services at Rippe Health Assessment.

Thorough and convenient

Orlando-based Dynetech Corp., an enterprise development and technology resources company, pays for its CEO Larry Pino to get his yearly checkup at Rippe Health Assessment.

Pino has done so for the past few years and values its efficiency. "My access to physicians in the past has been very time-consuming, not integrated and not executive quality in respect to the treatment," he says.

Ann McGee, president of Seminole Community College, also is a client at Rippe Health Assessment. "I've been very pleased with its thoroughness, convenience and professionalism, and the follow-through has been exceptional," she says.

Other high-profile clients include University of Central Florida President John Hitt and former chairman of Walt Disney Attractions Dick Nunis.

Spreading the message

"Central Florida is lucky to have something like this here in our back yard," says Stachnik.

As to the future, Rippe says he'd like to see his emphasis on lifestyle medicine become the rule rather than the exception. "The people we're treating at Rippe are just the tip of the iceberg," he says. "I want to spread this message to every level of our society and I try to do that through research and education."

Rippe Health Assessment

Line of business: Provides comprehensive executive health assessments; advises how to make health, fitness and lifestyle changes; provides early detection, diagnosis and treatment of diseases
Address: 400 Celebration Place, Celebration, 34747
Founder: Dr. James Rippe
Founded: 1998
Corporate clients include: Florida's Blood Centers, Darden Restaurants, Walt Disney Co., McDonalds Corp., Tupperware Corp.
Contact: (407) 303-4454,

Tiffany Beck can be reached at (407) 241- 2894 or via e-mail at Andrea Tortora of the Cincinnati Business Courier contributed to this report.

Press Search
Orlando Business Journal's Best Places to Work 2006

The Inner City 100

Orlando Sentinel Top 100 Companies for Working Families