Our survey revealed that men aren’t seeking the healthcare that they need. Unfortunately, history has taught us not to be surprised. Our lead GP, Dr Luke Pratsides, explains what progress has been made when it comes to the male healthcare crisis.
It’s a decades-old problem: men aren’t seeking the healthcare that they need. Our survey showed that modern-day society is yet to conquer this worrying trend. It revealed that 4 out of 10 men haven’t visited a doctor in over a year, and 1 out of 10 can’t even remember the last time they saw a doctor. Unfortunately, these statistics aren’t as jarring as they should be.
We spoke to our lead GP, Dr Luke Pratsides to find out why this is and how healthcare for men is changing.
But first, let’s take a look at the data.
With infrequent visits to the doctor comes a lack of health screenings, meaning that nearly 7 out of 10 men have no real idea what’s going on in their bodies. A blood test is essential for measuring important biomarkers such as vitamin D and testosterone levels. It can flag health issues that are largely symptomless and surprisingly common, such as high cholesterol. A blood test can also explain why certain symptoms are occurring. For example, erectile dysfunction is sometimes an indicator of low testosterone.
Despite this, 4 out of 10 men haven’t had a blood test in over a year and 1 out of 10 admit to never having had one.
It’s particularly worrying since studies have found that men are more likely to participate in risky behaviour such as smoking, drinking, poor diet and lack of exercise.
The question is: why do men seek healthcare less than women?
Dr Luke explains, “There’s been a lot of work done to discover the reasons why men don’t talk about their physical or mental health, often only seeking healthcare late in a disease process, if at all. This has led to some possible explanations:
- Macho culture of men not wanting to appear weak
- Men finding it difficult to communicate emotions
- Male tendency to minimise or not accurately report symptoms
In addition, healthcare is not designed in a way that complements numerous men’s lifestyles. Many men attach a significant amount of their self worth to success in their careers. To access healthcare, men will often have to take time away from work. Full engagement in treatment or therapy can require multiple appointments over a long period of time. For many men, taking that time away from work is not an option.”
It’s clear that the problem is deep-rooted in society, but Dr Luke is optimistic when it comes to the solution.
“The traditional approach of public health information campaigns through written media, social media and television are effective to a degree at getting men to engage with their health more. However, I believe digital health technology holds the key to the solution to encourage men to engage with their health and GP,” says Dr Luke.
What is digital healthcare?
Digital healthcare refers to healthcare services that are provided online. This means communicating through technology, whether it's a phone call, video call or online form.
The pandemic has fast-tracked the route towards more digital healthcare, with phone calls and online appointments replacing face-to-face appointments with GPs.
Dr Luke explains 4 reasons why he thinks that it's a welcome shift for men across the nation:
1. Men tend to be technology-focussed
Having an app, digital tracker or tool through which to engage with healthcare is appealing to many men. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically increased the uptake of online remote consultations and in many GP surgeries, this is the main method by which to contact the GP. Online form-based questionnaires allow men to access healthcare at a time convenient to them. This can be any time of the day or night and the online questionnaires can be accessed from the comfort of one's home, away from the anxiety-inducing clinical environment of the GP surgery or hospital, with no need to take time out of work. The asynchronous nature of these consultations means no fixed appointment is required, with clinicians aiming to get back to patients within 24 hours.
2. Men often struggle to communicate their emotions face-to-face
Men often struggle communicating their emotions or describing symptoms in detail in a face-to-face interaction with a GP. In my practice, I’ve noticed that when required to write down their symptoms or feelings in an online consultation, men are far more detailed and revealing in their descriptions. This allows for a much richer and more valuable assessment from a clinician. The clinician, having assessed the answers to the online questionnaire, may choose to communicate with the patient via email, video or telephone call. At the point of contact, they’re already much more informed. This leads to greater patient and clinician satisfaction, and subsequently, a better outcome. There’s a greater likelihood that the man will engage in the future with their healthcare provider, remembering the previous positive experience.
3. Men are encouraged to take more tests away from awkward clinical environments
Advances in technology mean that most blood tests can be done from home and sent in the post to the lab. More and more tests including urine and stool have been adapted to allow for home testing. This helps to make the whole journey smoother with less friction caused by the need to attend a clinic for tests.
4. Data transparency urges men to interact more with healthcare
Digital records, when data is managed securely, democratises healthcare and can allow all patients to see their notes, tests, and manage their health interactions. It breaks the archaic model of the doctor or health provider being the gatekeeper to your health data. This allows men to view their health data conveniently, online, and brings healthcare up to date with how men manage other aspects of their life including travel, food shopping and banking to name just a few, through their smartphones.
Finally, Dr Luke adds, “Digital health increases the convenience and access to healthcare which is appealing to both men and women but arguably more aligned with how men prefer to interact with healthcare and manage their health.”
The new digital healthcare system has required both medical professionals and patients to adapt and adjust their behaviour. But with passionate professionals such as Dr Luke championing digital healthcare for men, we can use this new way of life as a welcome drive for change for the male healthcare crisis.
The numan take
Along with the many changes brought about by the pandemic comes the new digital approach to healthcare. Dr Luke explains how this has transformed men’s health, drawing many positives from managing healthcare online. The digital systems in place have allowed men to access healthcare faster and easier than ever before, and broken down barriers that have previously stopped men from seeking healthcare when they need it.
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