How Doctors Can Heal Corporate America’s “Chief Complaints”

The world of corporate wellness, already a $200 billion industry, is growing at a rate of about 20% per year, and it provides an ideal setting for holistically-minded clinicians to do what seems impossible in conventional medicine: teach real lifestyle change and prevent disease.

corp wellnessWith healthcare costs threatening the viability of many businesses, executives these days are desperately seeking strategies that can help employees get healthy and stay that way.

The problem is, they seldom know how to find the practitioners most qualified to meet those challenges. All-too-often, they buy programs from consultants with little clinical training who promise much but deliver little.

“I run into all these “health consultants” in the corporate space that have no business being there. They’re just salesmen. Many doctors are struggling to make ends meet, and then there’s these middlemen making a fortune in corporate wellness,” says Pedram Shojai, OMD, an oriental medicine physician, who is also director of, and the Corporate Wellness Academy.

Dr. Shojai, a featured speaker at the upcoming Heal Thy Practice 2015 conference in San Diego this October, is committed to teaching physicians asnd other health professionals how to enter the rapidly-evolving world of corporate wellness.

As holistic practitioners, we are the most qualified people to meet corporate America’s needs, but they don’t know how to find us and we don’t know how to interface with them,” he told Holistic Primary Care.

Filling a Desperate Need

A pioneer in the corporate health space, Dr. Shojai got into the field a decade ago when he was director of three Southern California integrative medical clinics, employing 30 physicians and other practitioners. He faced the challenges of keeping the clinics fiscally viable despite reimbursement cuts.

“We got to the point where the 3rd party payors were running the show, and I quickly learned the limitations of the insurance-based model. I had the responsibility of feeding these offices with new patients. My efforts to make connections in corporate world turned into this tsunami of new patients. We were getting 20, then 30, then 50 new patients per month from corporations I was talking to. It became real business.”

Dr. Shojai’s media company, Well.Org, provides health-related content to over 2,200 corporations, and he has developed comprehensive systems to help practitioners work effectively with companies looking for wellness solutions.

The need, he says, is dire.

Over 50% of corporate revenue now goes towards healthcare, and medical spending costs the corporate world roughly $153 billion annually. On average, US companies spend $9312 per employee per year on healthcare.

“It’s a mess out there,” he says, of the rising interest in employee health programs. “The ones who don’t yet offer programs know that they need to, and they’re clamoring.”

Explosive Growth

In 2015, 70% of employers surveyed say they are offering some sort of employee health program, up from 62% in 2014. According to Dr. Shojai, the ten most common types of programs offered at US companies are:

  • Disease prevention: 55%
  • Medical self-care: 51%
  • Fitness: 41%
  • Smoking cessation: 40%
  • Stress management: 37%
  • Alcohol/substance abuse: 36%
  • Back care: 32%
  • Nutrition education: 24%
  • Hypertension education: 24%
  • Mental health programs: 24%

The current surge is also being driven by the Affordable Care Act, which offers incentives to companies that offer these programs.

“ObamaCare has done a lot of things wrong, but one thing it’s done right is that it mandated wellness programs and initiatives,” Pedram Shojaisays Dr. Shojai. “It’s created an opportunity for us to step in and say, “Look, we know you are having problems, we’re here to help.”

He described a huge lack of well-trained practitioners with solid preventive medicine chops, and the ability to interact well with corporate leaders. Physicians who practice holistic or functional medicine are well-positioned to fill that gap.

The key to getting in the door is to understand the “chief complaints” of the executives.

“Nobody really buys “wellness.” And they don’t buy the modalities you practice either. They do buy cost savings, improved productivity, reduced absenteeism, happier and more productive employees. That’s what they want.”

The CFO’s “Chief Complaint”

The challenge, he says, is that practitioners speak “medicine,” but few have learned to speak “corporate.” Working with corporate people means translating medical concepts into economic ones.

Companies are struggling with obesity, stress and burnout, diabetes, cardiovascular disease. But executives think about those problems in terms of medical costs, insurance premiums, absenteeism and lost productivity.

Based on his work with companies large and small, Dr. Shojai says good wellness programs can offer tremendous return-on-investment, on the order of 4:1 in raw healthcare costs. That increases to 5:1 if you factor in reduced absenteeism. The cherry on top is reduced worker’s comp and disability claims on the order of 32%.

Those kinds of numbers get the attention of company leaders.

“If you can put together programs that reduce average medical spend by $2000 per employee per year, and it’s only going to cost the company say $100-$500 per employee, that’s a very good business proposition.”

Delivering results like this requires clinical know-how, good social skills and, most importantly, time. If 30% of a company’s workforce is overweight and speeding toward a town called Diabetes, it could take a year or more to make meaningful change. A successful corporate health professional knows how to set realistic expectations with management, as well as meaningful measurable outcomes.

For holistic physicians, the timing has never been better for getting into this field, Dr. Shojai says. Executives recognize that the status quo conventional care model is not working.

Does this mean doctors should just go cold-calling on their nearest Fortune 500 corporations? Not exactly.

Begin with people you already know: your patients. Odds are good that many are employed at companies that would benefit from what you have to offer.

Start asking patients about their jobs, where they work, whether their employers are offering any sort of health programs. You’ll be surprised how many leads start to open up.

At Heal Thy Practice, Dr. Shojai will outline the basics of effective wellness programs and describe pathways for finding and developing opportunities in this dynamic field. He’ll review:

  • How to effectively communicate with executives by learning to speak their language
  • How to analyze a company’s needs and create custom programs
  • How to track outcomes, clinically and economically
  • How to work within budgets and over-deliver value
  • How to get more private clients out of a corporate setting

“Basically, we need an army of practitioners who can teach healthy lifestyle,” he says. “We’re all out there, we’re on the front lines trying to figure out how to help people. Corporate can be a very good option for that.”

Join Pedram Shojai, and along with a stellar line-up of leading holistic & functional medicine practitioners. Register for Heal Thy Practice today!


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