What urologists can do to educate male patients

September 9, 2019

Urologists should be open minded that more people are turning to the Internet for health care advice or services and should consider reaching patients where they live and work by implementing telemedicine, when it makes sense, or in their own online communications, according to Aaron Spitz, MD, of Orange County Urology Associates in California.

Urologists should be open minded that more people are turning to the Internet for health care advice or services and should consider reaching patients where they live and work by implementing telemedicine, when it makes sense, or in their own online communications, according to Aaron Spitz, MD, of Orange County Urology Associates in California.

Urologists can help set the record straight by dispelling rumors and myths and shuttling patients to reliable sources, according to Ryan P. Smith, MD, of the University of Virginia.

“Part of our job is to educate them that it’s not safe to self-prescribe and self-treat,” Dr. Smith said.

Some credible resources, according to Dr. Goldstein, are the Urology Care Foundation’s website (www.urologyhealth.org) and the Sexual Medicine Society of North America’s public resource (www.sexhealthmatters.org/).

Urologists are among those making a concerted effort to deliver credible online health information on their websites and on social media, according to researcher Adithya Balasubramanian, a medical student at Baylor College of Medicine.

“This can help providers access patients who were previously unaware about potential solutions to men’s health issues such as erectile dysfunction or hypogonadism. Many of these conditions are still associated with considerable stigma and shame. The growing online presence of urology practices can help reduce such negative views and help men access care in a more discreet fashion,” Balasubramanian said.

Also see: New online men’s health sites divide opinion

Balasubramanian and colleagues analyzed Twitter trends for male infertility and Peyronie’s disease in separate papers published online (Urology Practice May 7, 2019; Urology Practice April 12, 2019). They found Peyronie’s disease Twitter discussions are growing and that Twitter is a digital tool influencing awareness and perceptions of the condition.

To the extent that urologists might be concerned about their patients being scooped away by predatory online medical services, urologists can fight back by providing countervailing information online, according to Dr. Spitz. Ideally, the information would be promoted by professional societies that help to get the word out about web-based scams or unsafe practices.

Urologists can also sit back and realize that they’ll likely benefit in the end.

“I have found that even though patients of my own have gone to Hims and Roman for quick access to medications, they still are coming in to see me because, ultimately, that direct one-on-one connection and more comprehensive back and forth and real-time interchange of information that happens with a live doctor is what the patients want and require,” Dr. Spitz said.

It’s no use hoping online direct-to-consumer care will go away. Digital tools are here to stay in health care and urology, and access to them is growing, Balasubramanian said.