Why Men Don’t Go See Doctors (and why they should)

Chances are more women will take the time to read this article on men’s health than will men.  “Women are really the health care providers in the home,” says Salt Lake Physician and researcher, Dr. Andy Peiffer.  “They are also more likely to prod their husbands to go to the doctor, but most men still ignore serious health risks until they start having problems.”

Dr. Peiffer is the medical director of the Men’s Health Center, recently established in Salt Lake City, and his goal is to get men out of crowded doctors offices and into a place and setting where they can talk about health concerns, get age-appropriate physicals and medical attention for health problems.  And Dr. Peiffer says, take as much time as you want to do it. “Men generally tend to ignore their health although they are at higher risk for cardiovascular health problems and certain forms of cancer,” says Peiffer.  “Younger males have this notion of immortality which precludes them from consulting doctors on a preventative basis.  Most men thereafter become tied up in their professional and/or family obligations and they tend to put aside their own health care needs.”

Fact:  Men die a lot younger than women from diseases that are highly preventable, namely, cardiovascular problems and cancers.  Fact:  There are risk factors that physicians should be going over at all stages of a man’s life, starting even with youngsters.  Fact:  When a boy reaches puberty, there are screening considerations for cancer and counseling issues regarding lifestyle that he should be aware of. Even from an early age, the health risks of men and women differ considerably and medicine needs to offer men age-appropriate service that focuses on those risks.  Fact: “There is a general male psyche to be a reactor to disease or illness rather than a ‘preventor’ of it,” says Dr. Peiffer.  “Men have a different approach than do women.  They will wait until something’s broken before they fix it; commonly known as ‘secondary prevention’.”  Dr. Peiffer then makes a statement that most men know to be true.  “Men think that if they have no symptoms they’re not going to develop health problems.  Given that most problems are so preventable, it just doesn’t make sense.”

The Men’s Health Center is no “treat ‘em and street ‘em” shop.  Dr. Peiffer will schedule appointments for as long as the patient needs to deal with his health concerns.  Most working men like to make the most efficient use of their time and doctors need to be aware of that.  “You’ll only get the chance to see your client once or twice a year.  The rest of the time it’s phone calls. Because of that, you have to make accurate health risk assessments, conduct a complete physical and set goals for the client during one comprehensive meeting.  Offering convenient office hours is a first step in tailoring medical services for men and they appreciate the center’s availability, be it early morning, evenings or anytime on the weekend.” Of course it will take a lot more than convenient office hours to change the male attitude about regular check-ups, but more and more men are recognizing that they can live longer, more productive lives with just a bit of help from medical science.

The spillover affects younger men too.  They are becoming more aware of the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, seeing doctors for preventative visits and treating any health problems early before permanent complications set in .  “They’ve seen what impact ignoring simple healthy problems like high blood pressure or cholesterol can have,” says Dr. Peiffer.  “Almost every man in his 40’s knows of another man about the same age who was surprised with a devastating diagnosis like cancer or heart disease.”

Andy Peiffer hopes the combination of convenience, solid medical evaluations and individualized health programs will prompt more men to benefit from his center’s services.  He is convinced that males will recognize the value of good service.  “You wouldn’t go back to the same garage with your car if you thought the mechanics hadn’t completed the job or didn’t fix the right thing,” he says.  “We have a lot of men walking around with existing health problems or who have serious risk factors that need to be addressed.  Preventative maintenance is the best way to deal with emerging health problems.  The fact that a lot of chronic health problems and deaths among men are preventable is a very disquieting reality.”

So is this a new breed of doctor providing a new breed of medicine?  “I think that this level of service requires a particular kind of physician who is willing to spend time with clients; go over their health concerns and look at family medical histories in a comprehensive manner in order to choose the right tests and direct his physical exam,” says Peiffer.  The idea is to maximize the benefit of the visit for the client.  In today’s managed health care environment, too many good doctors are forced to spend less and less time with patients. Dr. Peiffer says, “Their willingness to conduct thorough interviews and exams is obstructed by the need to see so many patients per hour in order to cover their costs.  Here at the Men’s Health Center, we have adopted an entirely new approach to providing preventative and basic health care services that provide more value to our clients.”

The most important weapons any man or woman has against disease is being able to make informed decisions and if people don’t see a doctor for years at a time, even groundbreaking technological advancement can do nothing to help.  Says Dr. Peiffer, “Just as you would check in at the computer store or car dealership to see what new products there are, you should also want to find what new medical tests and treatments are now available to reduce health risks and help you live a longer, healthier life.”