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Can your company survive your illness? Featured

10:04am EDT July 22, 2002

We all probably know at least one business owner or top executive who's been struck with a serious illness. In most cases, the person, and the company, would probably have benefited from early detection.

Executives are not immune to health problems, and they might even be more susceptible if they're so busy that they neglect regular checkups.

That's the reason that the North Canton Medical Foundation launched its Executive Health Program. The full-service medical practice is targeting the 50 largest-area employers in hopes of providing annual physicals to all of their executive staffs. The marketing push focuses on how much companies suffer if a top executive is off work for an extended time or even dies from an undetected ailment.

The physicals, which are paid for by the employer, generally include a head-to-toe exam, a pulmonary check, blood count, cancer screening, chest X-ray, urinalysis, hearing and vision exams and other basic screenings. This level of exam costs $640 per person.

"If they invest in their executives, they're investing in the future of their companies," says Joan Bowser, Executive Health coordinator.

So far, about a dozen Stark County companies have contracted with North Canton Medical, including The Hoover Co., The Timken Co. and Diebold Inc.

At Hoover, the program covers the top 10 officers and managers. "So far we're very, very happy with the program," says Hoover spokeswoman Jacquelyn Love. "It's very positive for the employees and the company."

North Canton Medical provides red-carpet treatment for the executives, including opening at 7:30 a.m. to accommodate work schedules and avoid typical doctor's office waits. "It's pretty elite treatment," Bowser says.

Executives benefit by having their companies pay for comprehensive physicals. The companies benefit by keeping their important executives in better health.

Dr. John Humphrey, medical director for the practice, says the program serves as a sort of kick in the pants for executives who might procrastinate. "Most of us have access to health services, but this motivates them and systematizes their exams," Humphrey says.

"Most of us know what we should do, but we put stuff off because we have anxiety over it. Every intelligent woman knows you should have a mammogram every year, but so many women don't get them. This makes sure they get them."

Humphrey adds that the exams don't substitute for regular care, nor is the practice trying to steal business from existing family doctors. "This should supplement your health care, not compete with your primary physician."

The practice forwards information to the employee's family doctor, but not to the company management. "I enter into a doctor-patient relationship with these people just like everyone else," Humphrey says. "Clearly the companies have to honor that."

Many major clinics nationwide have started offering such executive programs, Humphrey says. Popular executive choices are the Mayo Clinic and Greenbriar Clinic.

"We, as a country, are getting a lot more into early detection and preventative care," Bowser says. "The bottom line is we're pushing this as an investment in a company."

North Canton Medical Foundation, which has 44 physicians and 270 employees, launched the program earlier this year, both to provide a community service and to try to build a business. "If they need a specialist down the road," Bowser says, "maybe they'll think of us."

How to reach: North Canton Medical Foundation (330) 305-5060