Are Executive Health Programs Worth the Money?

Are Executive Health Programs Worth the Money?

Spotting a trend, Bloomberg Businessweek writer Sam Grobart tried out the Executive Health Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, one of several new programs at US hospitals that offer a new style of premium preventive healthcare for business leaders:

During my visit I was subjected to a series of tests and examinations that, if I’d needed to schedule and attend them individually, would easily have taken two months to complete. (Hearing exams aren’t usually atop my to-do list.) More than any particular test, one-stop shopping is the selling point: Captains of industry can simply block out a couple of days in their calendar and get all their poking and prodding in at once. “Think about the kinds of lives many of these executives lead,” says Dr. Stephanie Hines, the program’s director. “They travel all the time, they’re out at business dinners—it’s not a recipe for regular exercise and a good diet. In many cases, patients are coming to us knowing they’re not taking care of themselves. Their visit here is a way to help get back on track.”

These programs have become standard fare at leading U.S. hospitals. You can participate in them not only at Mayo, but also at the Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General in Boston, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, the UCLA Medical Center, and many other major institutions. Some of them even have satellite locations in such executive-friendly destinations as Jacksonville, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz. With their high fees and generally healthy patients, the programs are a profit center.

Organizations, Grobart adds, are often paying for their executives to undergo these marathon medical examinations, finding them to be worth the steep price given the risk of a leader suddenly falling ill. Recall the high-profile cases of United Airlines CEO Oscar Muñoz and Valeant Pharmaceuticals chairman and CEO J. Michael Pearson, both of whom suffered major health episodes in 2015 that left their companies scrambling for substitute chief executives, rattling investors’ nerves.

The potential costs to the organization of a health crisis in the C-suite are such that executive health programs are a bargain at twice the price if they prevent one. These costs are also one reason why the most effective HR leaders develop robust succession plans, so that their organizations are prepared to weather the sudden absence or departure of any corporate leader, including the CEO.

CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can access a wide range of resources on succession management here.