The annual physical — it’s something we all dread, and if given half a chance it is something we will postpone — often for years.

Time is one of the most popular excuses for putting off a physical — especially when people need to fit it into their busy work schedules. But many might be more likely to get a complete physical if they knew the whole rigmarole could be handled in a day.

“Time is a big factor in why people put off physicals,” says Sejal Dave, business outreach liaison for the Executive Health Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. “You get your appointment for a physical with your family doctor, who may be running late that day, so it takes a couple of hours.

“Then if you need to schedule any special tests, you have to make each of those appointments separately, the make a follow-up visit to talk with your doctor again about the results.

By the time you are done it can take you a couple of months — not to mention time off from work for each test or doctor’s visit,” she says.

RWJ’s Executive Health Program was designed to streamline the process and get it completed in one visit. Patients receive a pre-appointment interview, a physical examination by an internist, blood work including complete blood count, chemistry profile, and other routine screenings.

Included is a urine analysis and occult blood and PSA, an EKG and chest x-ray, an exercise stress test for people older than 40, hearing and vision screenings, and body fat analysis.

Then comes a meeting with a physical fitness and nutrition consultant who recommends a personal exercise and nutrition plan. The day ends with a final meeting with the internist to hear the results of all of the tests and receive recommendations for any additional treatment.

But because the doctors at the program know that not everyone fits neatly into the same medical box, other tests can also be scheduled and included in the day’s regime. Women can schedule their yearly gynecological test including a pelvic exam by a gynecologist, a pap smear, screening mammogram, and CA-125 blood test.

Other services offered for both men and women include colonoscopy, bone density study, nutritional consult, pulmonary function testing, CAT Scan of chest, thallium stress test, echocardiogram, endometrial biopsy, and pelvic ultrasound.

Who Should Use the Service? Despite the word “executive” in the name, the wellness program is designed for a lot more people than just the busy executive, says Dave. “The program is great for moms who have to schedule babysitting and for anyone who travels a lot, particularly if they don’t always know their travel schedule far in advance.”

An exam, which takes a total of about five hours, can usually be scheduled within a month, and if necessary, the center can accommodate someone with as little as a week’s notice. “Executive denotes the type and quality of service and care you receive here, it doesn’t mean that you must be an executive of a company to use us,” she says.

The facility includes wireless internet and phone service; two private work spaces for the patient who may need to make a private phone call or do uninterrupted work in between scheduled tests, private shower area, and refreshments and lunch. All of the exams and tests are scheduled in one building. Visit www.rwjuh.edu/executivehealth for more information.

Dave also makes the point that the program does not replace a primary care physician. It is a once a year visit and all results and recommendations are forwarded to the primary care physician.

Dave, who began working with the program less than a year ago, said she was particularly interested in the program because it fit with her own interest in preventative care. Dave received a joint degree in 2007.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers, where she majored in both women’s and gender studies and public health, and a master’s degree in public health with an emphasis in health systems and policies from UMDNJ. Before coming to Robert Wood Johnson last fall, she had worked in scientific communications for a pharmaceutical corporation and later for a nonprofit foundation.

What Does It Cost? Out-of-pocket costs for the services vary depending on a person’s insurance, explains Dave. The program accepts most health insurance programs so a majority of the tests will be covered by health insurance.

A “concierge fee” of $700 is considered a “non-covered benefit” by most carriers and is due at the time of service, in addition to any co-pays and deductibles. The concierge fee covers the comprehensive on-site services, same-day “stat” results on testing services, and extended 90-minute one-on-one physician contact.

It also includes assistance with future scheduling of any necessary medical testing at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, communication of exam and test results to the primary care physician, and a copy of your test results and physical exam for your personal records.

“If you should need follow-up care we have a wide range of doctors at Robert Wood Johnson, who accept a wide range of insurance. We can accommodate almost all follow-up needs through the hospital,” she says.

What is the ROI? The program is aimed at business people, and they want to know the bottom line: what is the return on investment? says Dave. “Yes, the program is expensive, but when you look at the bottom line, you are not only saving time, you are saving money, too,” says Dave.

Patients should factor in the costs of spending time on the phone to schedule multiple tests, the time and gasoline needed to drive to multiple sites, the time taken off work for each doctor’s visit or test, and finally, the time and money that can be lost if because a routine physical is postponed, you become ill, she says.

“You have to think of the value of your time and money in relationship to all of these things,” Dave says. “If you end up spending a week in the hospital because you didn’t take care of a problem that could have been prevented, how much more will it cost you?”

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