Winter Park Health Assessment’s new program reveals who you are and what you’re made of, inside and out. For me, it also yielded an totally unexpected diagnosis.
What do you hate most about going to the doctor? For me, it’s not the needles, the paper gowns, the poking, probing and prodding. It’s not even the necessity of producing “samples” in flimsy paper cups.
I hate waiting. It rankles me to spend an hour or more in a doctor’s office, thumbing through Clinton-era magazines, when ultimately I’ll spend just a few minutes in my doctor’s company.
So when I showed up at Florida Hospital’s new Winter Park Health Assessment facility, located near Winter Park Memorial Hospital on Edinburgh Drive, it was a pleasant surprise to find that the WPHA clinic doesn’t even have a waiting room.
Instead, I was immediately greeted by Herminio Alamo, clinical nurse manager for WPHA as well as Celebration Health Assessment, another Florida Hospital-affiliated program headquartered at the Disneyfied master-planned community.
“So, what did you have for breakfast?” he asked. I thought it was a trick question, since I had been ordered not to eat or drink anything for the 12 hours preceding my appointment.
Turns out, it was a critical question. Had I not fasted as instructed, the results of that day’s blood work could have been compromised. Good thing I’m a rule-follower.
WPHA now offers half- and full-day health assessments that its promotional literature describe as “the ultimate health experience — a comprehensive, convenient and personalized approach to wellness that will inspire you to achieve a higher level of health through wellness living — body, mind and spirit.”
Lofty words indeed, and not ones I’d have chosen to describe previous physical examinations, which seemed perfunctory and impersonal at best.
But WPHA is striving to elevate the old-school checkup to a more comprehensive and patient-friendly level, offering extensive one-on-one time with physicians, fitness and nutritional assessments, on-site labs and imaging technology, and even same-day results.
Also available is genomic testing, which uses DNA to identify your risk for various health problems.
WPHA offers several “packages,” each of which bundles an array of evaluations. Priced between $1,995 and $3,900, offerings are customizable and reveal pretty much everything that medical science can discern about your body and how it functions, inside and out, head to toe.
The regimen I chose, the half-day Healthy Heart Package, costs $1,995 and focuses on cardiac issues. But, as I would find, it can reveal problems entirely unrelated to heart health.
There are also three Genomics Packages — Pathway Fit, Cardiac Insight and Healthy Woman — that cost around $500 each. None of these exhaustive evaluations, unfortunately, are covered by insurance.
Comparable to physicians who have adopted concierge-style models for their practices, hospitals are offering more VIP services for which patients pay directly. For years, hospitals have offered so-called “executive” health programs that take one or more days to complete and provide thorough medical workups and lifestyle assessments.
But WPHA is looking to expand the market for such services beyond CEOs whose companies are footing the bill. It wants to attract everyday moms and dads who don’t mind investing as much in their health as they might for a really nice watch or a new refrigerator and range.
“Our evaluations are comprehensive and personalized to the individual,” says Alamo, “It’s a unique opportunity to get access to multiple health specialists and experts who collaborate to develop a plan of care specifically for you.”
Adds Dr. Sheri Novendstern, senior staff physician, “We do in a day what would take many days elsewhere. Here, you get a picture of who you are, what you’re made of and what you need to do to improve.”
That sounded good to me. I’m health-conscious — though by no means obsessive about it — and all too aware that I’m not 20 anymore. Plus, as a reporter I’m all about making decisions based on factual data from credible sources.
So, after correctly answering Alamo’s question — “Uh, I haven’t had anything today” — I was immediately whisked into an examination room to have four vials of blood drawn by Tawana DiNardo, a registered nurse.
That was just the beginning of a battery of tests. DiNardo and Alamo ran me through the basics: blood pressure (high; I have a slight case of “white coat syndrome”), urinalysis, temperature, hearing, vision, height and weight. So far, so good — but then Alamo wanted to measure my waist.
My waist measurement, he explained, could be an indicator of my risk for heart disease. For women, more than 35 inches signals an elevated risk; for men, it’s more than 40 inches. A larger waist size can signal an abundance of visceral fat around the internal organs, which is linked to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Luckily for me, my waist size was comfortably below the danger zone, which took the sting out of learning that my muscle-mass numbers ruled out an appearance on the cover of Shape magazine anytime soon.
Muscle-mass data came from the InBody 720. Joe Stinson, an exercise physiologist, had me strip down to my sports bra and shorts before standing on the device, which uses electrodes and various frequencies to take a variety of muscular, skeletal and tissue measurements.
It was reassuring to learn that my body mass index (BMI, which measures the ratio of height to weight) was good and that my stats all fell within normal ranges — although my fat-to-muscle ratio clearly indicated that I need to hit the gym more.
That point was driven home when Stinson put me on a treadmill to measure my fitness level. He taped various EKG electrodes to my body to measure my heart rate, and strapped a mask to my face to measure the volume of air expelled and the ratios of oxygen and carbon dioxide contained therein.
What the results revealed wasn’t great. Let’s just say that if my fitness level were an SAT score, no college would be interested in admitting me. Stinson told me that I needed to work harder — and smarter — at the gym, including decreasing the number of repetitions while increasing the amount of weight I was lifting.
Before my humiliation-by-treadmill, I was given a break for breakfast, which I’d pre-ordered from the menu provided when I made the appointment. I chose the fruit cup over the chicken and apple sausage sandwich or breakfast wrap, which earned me a scolding from the Christine Bowling, a nutritionist.
Having fruit for breakfast instead of a protein source would guarantee a sugar crash later in the day, she said. And since my blood work indicated a potassium deficiency, Bowling recommended adding coconut water to my diet. She also suggested that a liquid fish-oil supplement could not only promote heart health by lowering my blood pressure and reducing triglycerides, but its anti-inflammatory properties could help with my creaky joints.
The assessment staff kept me pretty busy, but I still needed to talk with the doctor. I’d filled out an extensive form regarding my health history — and that of my family — prior to my appointment. And when I met with Novendstern, it was clear that she’d read it carefully.
We sat together at a table and reviewed it all. She took copious notes and asked me questions about everything from my work to my family to my general outlook on life. She also reviewed with me the results of all testing that had been done prior to her arrival — thanks to the clinic’s proximity to Florida Hospital’s labs, my blood work and urinalysis were completed in just a few hours.
During our chat, there was no sense that I was being rushed. Novendstern, friendly and relaxed, seemed to want to get to know the whole me — not just my internal organs.
In my experience, at least, that was unusual for a doctor’s visit. But then something even more unusual happened. She asked me if I’d ever had a bone scan for mineral density.
When I said no, she sent me down the hall for one, which was completed in a matter of minutes. The scan wasn’t part of the Healthy Heart package, but my insurance picked up the cost. A procedure that ordinarily would have required a separate appointment at a later date was accomplished in less than half an hour.
The results came back pretty quickly, too. The unexpected verdict: osteoporosis — a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to fracture. Like most women, I was concerned about eventually developing osteoporosis, but hadn’t expected it to become an imminent problem for several decades.
There could be many reasons for osteoporosis, including genetics and low body weight, but for a 52-year-old it’s a sobering diagnosis. Had I not visited WPHA, it might have been years before I’d gotten a scan — years that could have compromised my bones further.
Novendstern, formerly an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Florida Health Science Center, explained the various treatment options available. She also told me that, given the level of osteoporosis present, my current chances of suffering a fracture are less than 2 percent. I can live with that.
Was it worth it? Full disclosure: As a journalist preparing a story, I was offered a complimentary assessment. But even if I had paid out of pocket, I would have considered it money well spent.
The osteoporosis finding almost certainly saved me from considerably higher costs — and increasingly serious health issues — in years to come. Plus, I was reassured by all the things that weren’t found, and inspired to take better care of myself.
Speaking of which, I’m off to the gym.
IT’S ALL IN THE GENES
WPHA has partnered with Pathway Genomics to offer genetic testing as part of its health-assessment packages. Genetic testing, also known as DNA testing, can determine your vulnerability to certain diseases and detect the precursors to such problems as coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. There are three Genomics Packages offered:
• Pathway Fit. Provides information that allows you to optimize exercise, metabolism and energy, and to make more informed decisions about diet and nutrition.
• Cardiac Insight. Identifies your risk for certain heart-related conditions, such as hypertension and heart attack, and offers information on mitigating that risk.
• Healthy Woman. Identifies potential health problems, helps to manage post-partum weight loss and identifies genes that influence metabolism and exercise.