Telemedicine has been gaining in popularity since the advent of digital communication technologies. What’s more, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019/early 2020 has further boosted the prevalence of this mode of health care delivery since these visits can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
Virtual health visits offer the benefits of comfort and convenience to patients who may not otherwise be able to arrange childcare or transportation to a health center, or who have trouble fitting another appointment into their busy schedules. Telemedicine can save time, money, and energy for patients.
The obvious benefits of telemedicine aside, there may be subtler reasons why patients are increasingly opting for virtual care, particularly when it comes to sexual health.
About 1,000 men completed a national survey regarding telemedicine that was developed as part of Cleveland Clinic’s annual MENtion It campaign, which is a campaign aimed at encouraging men to mention health concerns to their providers and seek medical care when necessary.
According to the survey, there were 1.2 million virtual Cleveland Clinic visits in 2020, compared to just 37,000 in 2019. Perhaps not surprisingly, younger men expressed more interested in virtual care than older men. When broken down by age, 41% of millennials (25 to 40 years old), 36% of the men from Generation Z (18 to 24 years old), and 32% of those from Generation X (41 to 56 years old) preferred a virtual appointment to an in-person health visit. On the other hand, only 9% of the baby boomers surveyed (age 57 or older) preferred telemedicine to in-person care.
When discussing sexual health problems, 44% of all men stated that they would prefer to speak with their health care provider online or by phone because they are too embarrassed to do so face to face. Fifty-six percent of the Latino men who participated in the survey expressed embarrassment about talking to a provider about sexual health problems in person. In this respect, telemedicine may provide a unique opportunity to support patients with issues that they might not bring up in a clinical setting.
The results of the study indicated that, in general, older men are more comfortable discussing health issues/risks than younger men. Feeling uncomfortable talking about health concerns could be an impediment to seeking preventative care, and 19% of the millennial men shared that they only visit their primary care provider when something is wrong. This finding is in line with a trend that many health care professionals have observed in their work: that young men tend to seek “transactional care” on an as-needed basis like receiving treatment for an illness or injury. Potentially, telemedicine could begin to change this trend by providing patients a more comfortable, convenient way of seeking preventative care.
As technology continues to evolve and change, so must the field of health care and modes of health care delivery. Telemedicine may not be able to fully replace in-person health visits, but it has demonstrated its value as an additional tool for reaching and treating patients.
Cryts, A. (2021, September 8). Men Prefer Telemedicine; Doctors Should Take Notice: Survey. Medscape. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/958328.
John Hopkins Medicine. (2021). Benefits of Telemedicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/benefits-of-telemedicine.