Men don’t go to their doctors, and they die.
According to a survey of American men, 65% of men avoid seeking medical advice and 37% actively withhold information from their doctors. This, according to the World Health Organization, is one of the main reasons why men disproportionately suffer from preventable health problems and die on average 5 years younger than women.
Common explanations for not seeking medical help include lack of flexible appointment times (61%), lack of health insurance (20%), and “not wanting to know” (37%), especially with regard to “taboo” topics including sexual and mental health.
In a 2019 editorial, The Lancet wrote that: “Strong beliefs, norms, attitudes and stereotypes of masculinity are prevalent and harmful to men’s health. These beliefs create social barriers that prevent men from seeking medical help and expose them to greater risks.
The way forward is clear. If we want to improve men’s health outcomes, we need to create new ways for men to access health care – ways around these social barriers.
Innovations in digital health and the VIMPRO model
Giving men access to well-integrated virtual and remote care is an effective way to improve their involvement in health services.
A 2020 paper notes that social stigma discourages men from confiding in healthcare professionals, adding, “This is precisely the area of healthcare that telemedicine is trying to address. By providing personalized care to patients within the privacy of a patient’s home, telemedicine companies can provide healthcare services to patients seeking consultations on topics previously considered too embarrassing to address in a public space.”
However, building digital-first offerings into health systems risks pushing budgets and capacity beyond breaking point. To counter this, healthcare providers have embraced an alternative model that gives male patients access to the benefits of digital healthcare: the VIMPRO (Vertical Integrated Micro-Providers).
What is a VIMPRO?
A VIMPRO refers to a digital healthcare provider that provides an end-to-end service to a specific patient group: for example, men suffering from ‘taboo’ health issues. A number of VIMPROs, typically providing diagnostics, consultations, treatment plans and medication administration, have already been successfully integrated into national healthcare systems
These platforms have proven to have an incredible impact on men’s healthcare, providing discreet and unfettered access to education and treatment for erectile dysfunction, obesity, hair loss and depression.
How VIMPROs Help Improve Men’s Health
According to a 2018 paper, “Effective strategies for addressing men’s health problems require a comprehensive understanding of men’s health needs, which includes an understanding not only of the epidemiology of men’s health, but also of their health-seeking behaviors and the social structure surrounding men.”
The VIMPRO model directly addresses this – by providing direct access to specialized clinical support – in all areas of male health, including mental health, sexual health and gut health – while taking into account men’s health-seeking behaviors, including all things related to seeking help.
Industry leaders in VIMPRO for men’s health, Numan, offer an easy-to-use VIMPRO platform that takes men from a free online consultation to medication delivery within 24 hours. Users do not have to go to the doctor or pharmacist to collect their prescription or medication. By eliminating the complications and embarrassment associated with seeking medical help, Numan has tapped into a market of men who want to take control of their health. Last September they raised $40 million – the largest ever fundraising in the men’s health sector and a testament to their robust market position – to support the scale-up of their platform in the UK and Europe.
The future of men’s health
Getting men’s health care ‘right’ is a challenge fraught with physiological, environmental and sociological hurdles. While not the solution to every problem, VIMPROs offer a highly specialized solution to men’s health needs – providing fast, accurate medical advice and prescriptions while overcoming many of the existing barriers.
When built with the right technology and integrations, VIMPROs are well on their way to playing a fundamental role in breaking taboos and transforming men’s health outcomes.
Photo: Chinnapong, Getty Images