Cleveland Clinic leading the way in wellness

Updated 4:07 p.m., June 11, 2010. The Cleveland Clinic is emerging as a leader in the wellness industry. The Ohio institution known worldwide for its heart care may soon also be known for reversing diabetes and high blood pressure — even some cancers — with its public health, employee wellness and integrative medicine practices, as […]

Updated 4:07 p.m., June 11, 2010.

The Cleveland Clinic is emerging as a leader in the wellness industry.

The Ohio institution known worldwide for its heart care may soon also be known for reversing diabetes and high blood pressure — even some cancers — with its public health, employee wellness and integrative medicine practices, as well as its groundbreaking research.

Though still a tiny part of what the Clinic does, the wellness practices are part of an innovation culture being driven by Dr. Toby “Delos” Cosgrove,  the cardiothoracic surgeon and inventor who now leads the $5 billion healthcare system as president and chief executive.

The practices also are securing for the Clinic a leading position in the wellness industry — which one economist estimates could approach $1 trillion this year — and helping focus the nation on a less-costly well-care system to replace its sick-care system.

“The state of our nation is only as good as the state of our health,” Cosgrove says in an interactive invitation to wellness at the Clinic’s Web site. “The good news is that each of us can make a difference by making positive changes in our eating and exercising habits, and by making smoking a thing of the past. Together, we can make our country healthier and happier, and lower the cost of healthcare for all.”

In June 2007, the Clinic took an usual step toward institutionalizing wellness — it started a Wellness Institute and appointed the nation’s first chief wellness officer — Dr. Michael Roizen — as its chairman.

An anesthesiologist by training, Roizen also 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 leads wellness initiatives like Shape Up & Go for the Clinic’s 40,000 employees, as well as the institute’s seven practices.

Last week, Roizen said he is working to spin out the Clinic’s first wellness businesses — a natural beauty Web site based on his YOU: Being Beautiful book with co-author Dr. Mehmet Oz and an email-based wellness coaching business. Roizen’s dream is spinning out a company that opens one disease reversal center for every five fast-food restaurants nationwide.

The centers would be based on the Wellness Institute’s Lifestyle 180 program, which runs group sessions that teach patients to manage or reverse 10 diseases — ranging from diabetes to breast cancer — with diet, exercise and stress management, as well as traditional drugs or surgeries.

At the Wellness Institute, East meets West. Acupuncturists work with classically taught chemotherapists to minimize the nausea of patients being treated for cancer. Traditional talk therapy mingles with hypnosis, art and breathe therapies to help patients overcome addictions, pain and stress.

Dr. Tom Morledge, leader of the Wellness Institute’s Prescriptive Wellness practice, might prescribe an acupressure bracelet to minimize post-surgical nausea for a patient who is having gynecologic surgery.

Integrative Medicine includes holistic medicine, acupuncture, Reiki, massage therapy, mind-body coaching and nutritional counseling. “So that means bringing alternative medicines with proven efficacy and safety into Western medicine,” said Dr. Tanya Edwards, the family physician who is medical director for the Center of Integrative Medicine.

“We are seeing phenomenal growth” in integrative health, Edwards said. “I’ve got seven acupuncturists who work for me. We’ve just hired a second mind-body coach. In March, we broke a record of the number of patients we saw in one month. And in April, we beat that record.

“Now, we’ve got a new doctor starting. That’s going to double the number of potential visits within a year,” she said.

Despite patient volumes that have grown 25 percent in each of the last four years, Roizen said only about one half of 1 percent of the Clinic’s entire medical practice is integrated. “So there’s a lot of growth that can be done,” he said.

Another practice in the Wellness Institute is Employee Wellness, led by Jim Jadallah, which offers tobacco treatment, exercise, nutrition and stress-management programs to the Clinic’s 40,000 employees. In January, the Clinic rolled out its free programs to 35,000 dependents of  its employees.

The institute’s Preventive Medicine practice, led by Dr. Richard Lang, offers health and tobacco treatment programs to executives and corporations. Its Tobacco Treatment Center helps its own patients — as well as those of other institute practices — to stop smoking. The tobacco center also advises some of the Clinic’s public health and employee initiatives.

Scott McFarland runs the Wellness Enterprise, which launches some of the institute’s group health programs as online businesses. For instance, StressFreeNow is an 8-week online program to reduce stress. The enterprise also runs an online store where customers can buy hundreds of health-related products.

Finally, there’s Lifestyle 180, the program that teaches employees of corporate customers how to modify their lifestyles — along with using traditional drugs or surgeries — to reverse chronic diseases and lower healthcare costs.

Dr. Elizabeth Ricanati, an internal medicine doctor who specializes in women’s health, runs the Lifestyle 180 program. “Through behavioral modification, patients are able to stabilize or reverse their disease,” Ricanati said. Some Northeast Ohio corporations have been big supporters of Lifestyle 180, paying for their employees to attend the program and then reaping the healthcare savings, she said.

“The Clinic is considered one of the driving forces in American healthcare in dealing with cost issue,” said Steve Lindseth, a serial information technology entrepreneur who is helping to commercialize some of the Clinic’s wellness businesses as a member of its Industrial Advisory Board. “It’s not just how do we treat a really sick person in a hospital more efficiently. It’s how do we prevent them from needing to come in the first place?”

While some patients pay individually for Lifestyle 180, few insurers cover the program’s cost. “It is penny-wise and pound-foolish for us to be spending almost 20 percent of our GDP dollar on healthcare and not cover things like yoga and blueberries, but will cover bariatric and open-heart surgeries,” Ricanati said. “That’s not a sustainable model.”

The Wellness Institute often serves patients at its rolling, wooded campus in Lyndhurst, Ohio — the former headquarters for TRW Inc. “It’s an ideal site for wellness,” Ricanati said. “We’re talking about lifestyle modification. We’re trying to get people to change their behaviors. To do it in a beautiful setting makes it seem possible.”

The Clinic uses its pastoral campus — and its programs and doctors — to deliver its wellness message to a growing congregation of listeners. “As we do that, we hope to be a leader in innovation in this space,” Roizen said.