Michael Roizen: The face of wellness at the Cleveland Clinic

While the Cleveland Clinic has many faces, Dr. Michael Roizen’s is the face of wellness. And that face is a money-maker for Cleveland’s largest health system.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Dr. Michael Roizen smiles — from the television screen, the book, the magazine cover — as if to say, “Trust me. I like you and I want to help you.”

While the Cleveland Clinic has many faces, Roizen’s is the face of wellness. And that face is a money-maker for Cleveland’s largest health system.

The chief wellness officer for the Clinic’s 40,000 employees and nine regional hospitals is a New York Times best-selling co-author of several “YOU” books, TV talk show regular and one of the media’s go-to authorities on wellness.

He also chairs the Clinic’s Wellness Institute, where people learn how to change unhealthy behaviors and choose lifestyles that include healthy foods and activities. The institute also is where the Clinic’s wellness businesses are based — the set of services from executive physicals to workplace exercise programs to a Web site that offers hundreds of wellness products to buy.

Who better to sell the latest health care trend than the likable doctor who pops walnuts from his white coat pockets and looks 20 years younger than his 63 years?

But instead of using fear to get patients to change their behaviors, like some doctors do, “This guy is giving you a reason to change, based on a better you,” says Mark Goren, president of Point to Point Healthcare, a health care marketing and strategy consultancy in Beachwood.

“He’s a highly approachable persona who enables the Clinic to take a bigger position through him on wellness,” Goren said.

The Clinic has been walking the wellness talk for several years. In 2005, it banned smoking from its main campus and two years later stopped hiring smokers. In 2007, it banned trans-fats from its menus (so long, McDonald’s) and put healthy snacks in its vending machines.

The Clinic started 2008 by establishing its Wellness Institute and later began offering free yoga classes and Weight Watchers services to employees, and a weekly farmers’ market to employees and the community. This year, it rolled out a “GO Foods” label for healthy foods in its cafeterias.

It’s part of a Clinic strategy to secure a position in the $100 billion wellness industry, which is trying to turn the nation’s sick-care system into one that focuses on wellness. “The way to drive substantial numbers for greater results is by impacting communities of people by changing their behavior,” Goren said.

And Roizen is the general leading the charge. “They are carving out a leadership position with the idea of wellness,” Goren said. “That’s not always intuitive to today’s health care organizations.”