Not all men's health centers are the same, but they do have several qualities in common.
My recent Urology Times article highlights what many urologists have probably long known: Men’s health is more than a marketing or advertising pitch. It’s a comprehensive, holistic approach to practicing medicine.
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“Most people use [men’s health] as a branding effort. If you go around the city or different parts of the country, people may call men’s health a place where men get testosterone shots or sexual health,” said Steven A. Kaplan, MD, director of the Iris Cantor Men’s Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell in New York. “We have much more of a holistic, committed, multi-tiered approach.”
The approach, Dr. Kaplan says, involves understanding that in a man who comes in with sexual dysfunction and is obese, the conversation about that man’s health has to include diabetes, lipidemia, and hypertension.
“It’s not so much that the urologist will do all that, but at least they’ll be able to talk the language and refer accordingly in an efficient manner,” Dr. Kaplan said.
The urologists and internal medicine experts interviewed for my article honed in on five components they associate with a successful men’s health concept. That’s not to say that all men’s health centers are the same. They’re not. But men’s health centers across the U.S. share these qualities.
1. A network
Men’s health goes beyond any one specialty’s domain. Steven Lamm, MD, an internal medicine physician and medical director at Preston Robert Tisch Center for Men’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, oversees a men’s health center that includes 24 clinicians, four of whom are urologists.
“It’s very appropriate to create a network-a team-with urologists who work with the internists, work with the cardiologists, work with the endocrinologists [and others], to provide global care. I think for the urologist to be the sole practitioner puts too much of a burden on that urologist,” Dr. Lamm said.
While urologists are primarily trained in many urologic issues, they’re probably not very comfortable dealing with obesity, depression, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, sleep apnea, and other common health problems among men, according to Dr. Lamm.
2. One-stop shopping
One way to lose a male patient is to ask him to come back another day to see another specialist, according to the experts interviewed. Today’s men’s health centers aim to meet most of a man’s health care needs under one roof, in as few appointments as possible. If a man being seen for erectile dysfunction also happens to have hypertension, a best practice is for the treating urologist to walk him down the hall to see a center-associated internist or cardiologist who also is experienced in men’s health.
3. A safe, comfortable place, designed for men
Studies indicate men are much less prone to seek medical care than women. To entice men, experts say it’s important to give men a place that is separate from the rest of a hospital, group, or health care system’s other centers and clinics. While it might not be a freestanding center, it’s important that a men’s health center has a separate entrance and waiting area. That waiting area should appeal to men. What does that mean? Magazines that men like. A flat-screen TV, featuring sports and shows men like to watch. Even the décor should speak to men.
Next: Institutional buy-in/support
4. Institutional buy-in/support
Men’s health centers are a collaborative effort. Doctors of different specialties have to work closely together. In the bigger picture of collaboration, these centers should have the buy-in and support of the larger affiliated hospital, health system, or physician group.
Men’s health is a concept designed to reach men who might not otherwise go to the doctor. Many men who go to men’s health centers start by visiting a urologist on staff to address erectile dysfunction or testosterone issues. To capture those men, it’s important for credible men’s health centers to differentiate themselves from the much-publicized testosterone and ED mills. That can be done through traditional and social media marketing.
Some ideas: hosting men’s nights, where the community is invited to talk about ED or low T; assembling a community advisory board for men’s health; and (to make clinicians outside the center more aware) giving grand rounds to hospital departments, including cardiology, pulmonology, infectious disease, and psychiatry. Once these centers have patients in the system, the referral process often is from within-from a center urologist, let’s say, to a center primary care doctor.
For more on the evolving concept of men’s health, be sure to check out our new section, #LetsTalkMensHealth.UT
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