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Man-to-Man Marketing: Reaching Healthcare’s Most Reluctant Patients

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Older man holding up hand with an expression of reluctanceIt turns out that there’s a huge and nearly-untapped marketing opportunity among men: “men who, studies show, avoid doctors for virtually anything short of a bullet wound,” as The New York Times describes them.

Hospitals in New York have been operating health centers in Midtown Manhattan that cater specifically to what just might be healthcare’s most reluctant—and sometimes neglected—patient groups. They represent a business and marketing model that other hospitals may want to emulate.

Medical marketing plans have long recognized the needs and healthcare-decision authority of women. It’s common to find hospital service lines—often within spa-like facilities—that include (and sometimes integrate) wellness and healthy living, OB/GYN care, high-risk pregnancy, mammography, cosmetic or severe vein treatments, incontinence and other needs.

Now “men’s clinics” have been getting traction by taking a page from that approach, “The Men’s Health Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., affiliated with Brown University, opened in 2008 and was one of the first in the nation,” according to the Times article.

“The Curtis D. Robinson Men’s Health Institute was founded in 2010 at St. Francis Care in Hartford. The Iris Cantor Men’s Health Center at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell opened in summer 2012, and NYU Langone [Center for Men’s Health] opened six months ago.”

You can find specialty clinics that cater to male health needs throughout the country; some operated by hospitals, and others provided by practitioners or medical groups. Many of these focus mainly on a common medical need such as urology, vasectomy, prostate conditions, erectile dysfunction, or weight loss.

In the New York City clinics, the service offerings take a broad approach, with “one-stop shopping for services ranging from heart monitoring to hair removal to hormone therapy, from the life-prolonging to the life-enhancing…” Hospital-connected clinics expand the range of services to include cardiology, dermatology, orthopaedics and sports medicine, plastic surgery and other specialty and subspecialty care.

Why don’t men seek health and medical help?

The masculine-oriented specialty clinic offers a man-to-man environment where, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Practice, seeking support tends to be indirect; there is a perception of vulnerability; and an attitude that seeking help is unacceptable. In addition, “Systematic barriers had to do with time and access; having to state the reason for a visit; and the lack of a male care provider.” [J Fam Pract. 1999 Jan;48(1):47-52]

The men’s specialty clinic approach appears to be an under-utilized marketing opportunity for many hospitals. Some hospitals are offering the masculine counterpart of their well-established female service lines.  It’s an underserved demographic group, and this reluctant patient group—based on the NYC models—finds it to be an answer to their needs.

Lonnie Hirsch

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