Dr. B asking "What about Thomas?" - heart conditions and wellness programs

What About Thomas?

Because the heart matters, I want to share the story of Thomas with you. It’s a story we can all learn from and take to heart, literally. 

Let me introduce you to Thomas, a consultant I have worked with over the past three years. Thomas and I previously spoke about his father who practiced a surgical specialty for many years before retiring. He is also aware of my medical background. In addition, Thomas knows about the healthy lifestyle theme of my books and blogs. Note: Our relationship is such that it would not be appropriate for me to inquire about his health or risk factors.

Helping People Be Healthy

I contacted the HR department of his nationally known company and offered my services and online course for their more than 20,000 employees who could be at risk for heart disease, dementia or cancer. My offer was declined. I was informed that they had a robust and effective wellness program integrated with their health benefits.

Many businesses and corporations offer wellness programs, but there is a disconnect between the information available and the incentive and ease with which one can use the program. In many cases, the benefits go unused.

So, What Happened to Thomas?

Unbeknownst to me, he had been neglecting his health. He also ignored his family history – his father required emergency heart bypass surgery at age 55.

Now, Thomas at age 50 was 30+ pounds overweight, not exercising, and neglecting his sleep.

At a time when he was working in a city 50 miles from home, he experienced left arm pain while walking to a meeting. A visit to the nearest hospital ER (which was out of his insurance network) revealed he was suffering unstable angina or was having a heart attack.

With the quick action of the ER team and intervention by a cardiologist, they stabilized Thomas. He needed two stents because of the 99% blocked arteries which supply blood to his heart.

Once the emergency had been averted, on the third day after admission, he was discharged home and instructed to see a local cardiologist in his network. He would need two additional stents to fully avert another acute event.

Heart Matters & the Road to Recovery

It is no wonder I had not heard from Thomas in a while. I am glad he is on the road to recovery. He has already lost 30 pounds and started an exercise program!

When I asked if he had ever enrolled in his corporate wellness program, he admitted he had not. His wellness program may likely cost his corporation $120 per person per year, but he had no incentive or encouragement to participate.

In addition, the administrators of his medical insurance would have received an invoice with charges of over $100,000 for the services that Thomas received. Wow!

Take the Road Less Traveled

Would enrolling in his organization’s wellness program have averted the need for four or more stents? Maybe, but it could have prevented the acute event and stents could have been placed in a less urgent and more controlled environment at a significantly reduced cost. Also, had he started the recommended lifestyle change years earlier, it could have prevented the acute event.

I am happy that Thomas got the care he needed and had medical insurance that covered some of his costs. Knowing that many others in his profession work under similar stressors and neglect a health benefit paid for by the employer, I cannot help but reflect on my declined offer by the HR department of his company. When I do the math, it might have had a more favorable and less expensive outcome for Thomas and his company.

The Next Steps

If you work for a company that offers wellness benefits, take advantage of them. It might just save your life.

If you are a business owner, CEO, HR director, or CFO, consider the potential benefits of offering such a benefit. It will save money in the long term and possibly save a life. Additionally, if the health of your workforce improves, your profitability will increase.

Stay tuned to my next blog this month … I will add details about the advantages of offering and/or encouraging participation in corporate wellness benefits.

To a long and healthy life,

David Bernstein, MD

P.S. Thomas is one of the many consultants I engage. I have great appreciation for the many coaches, consultants, advisors, and mentors from whom I have benefitted in life. We should all be so blessed and value all that has been gained. Since we cannot be experts at everything, finding people with personal growth, financial, legal, and medical expertise is a major component to success. Also, I have protected the name of the person in this story and have his permission to share this with you.

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