By Joshua Langston, MD
Everyone in a health profession has heard it before: men just don’t go to the doctor. That’s part of why they have poorer health and don’t live as long as women.
Instead of continuing to lecture men about their health, it is time to meet men where they are. If we really want to improve the health of men in this country, we’ve got to break down the barriers that prevent them from engaging the healthcare system.
It’s a fairly simple concept that they’ve used in barber shops, tire shops and other industries: we’ve got to take the existing healthcare industry and look at how we can attract men.
Creating a Man-Friendly Experience
Removing some simple obstacles could get men to the doctor’s office more often. For instance, an office could provide evening or weekend hours so patients don’t have to miss work.
An office redesign could be another simple solution. Doctors’ waiting rooms are typically bland, uncomfortable and full of home décor magazines. A man who wants to talk about erectile dysfunction may immediately feel out of place.
An office with a “man-cave vibe” might be a more welcoming atmosphere where men feel comfortable and even want to visit. A waiting room with leather furnishings and sports on television is more likely to lead to return visits for a man and maybe even his friends.
Capitalizing on Reasons Men Visit the Doctor
Should a medical practice resort to feeling “cool”? If we can impact patient outcomes, it is worth a try. A man is less likely to go to a primary care doctor to talk about weight gain or hypertension, but if we can create an approachable environment he may see someone when he experiences erectile dysfunction, hypogonadal symptoms, or voiding dysfunction.
These gateway diagnoses are the few things that will get a man in his 40s, 50s or 60s off the couch and to the doctor. We have to make the most of this opportunity to get the guy’s attention and intervene in a positive way. Symptoms of “Low T” might uncover a new diagnosis of diabetes or be the wakeup call a man needs to lose weight and start exercising.
Moreover, it could be a matter of life or death given that erectile dysfunction has been established as an independent marker of cardiovascular disease and associated with increased risk of stroke and all-cause mortality.
The Future is Now
We are launching Men’s Health Virginia, a new division of Urology of Virginia, because we believe the health disparities among men warrant action. A few simple tweaks to a traditional medical practice, along with gateway diagnoses that lead men to seek help, can result in an engagement with the healthcare system that can improve quality of life and hopefully its length as well.
Joshua Langston, MD is a urologist with Urology of Virginia and the Medical Director of Men’s Health Virginia. His clinical specialties in men’s health include treatment for erectile dysfunction, voiding dysfunction, hypogonadism, infertility, and Peyronie’s disease. urologyofva.net/menshealth