Hospital Program Taps Telehealth, mHealth Apps for Men’s Health

By Sara Heath

The program aims to better understand access to care for men and will utilize telehealth and mHealth apps to connect men to their healthcare.

A new program at University Hospitals (UH) will lean on telehealth, mHealth apps, and a patient-centered design to support men’s health and access to care.

Using $15 million in donations from Alexander and Sally Cutler, the Ohio-based healthcare organization has created the Cutler Center for Men’s Comprehensive Care. The Center will utilize various mHealth technologies to engage men in their healthcare and ideally address the factors that keep men from accessing healthcare.

Fewer than 50 percent of men have a primary care provider, UH reported, while less than half with depression have accessed mental healthcare. Men also have lower life expectancy than women, with higher death rates in 14 of the 15 leading causes of death, the health system explained.

This new program aims to address those disparities by understanding why men do not access healthcare and creating tech-enabled avenues by which men can access healthcare.

“We will address the huge number of men not engaged with health care and redefine what men’s health care will look like,” said Lee Ponsky, MD, chair and professor of Urology at UH Cleveland Medical Center, who will also be the executive director of the new Cutler Center.  “In Greater Cleveland, 250,000 less men than women saw a doctor in the last year. We want to find out why, evaluate social determinants of health care, develop a model that engages men and bring that number down.

The program will address key diseases that impact men more often than women, including heart and urological health, according to Ponksy, who also works as the director of the UH Urology Institute and is the holder of the Leo and Charlotte Goldberg Chair of Advanced Surgical Therapies and a master clinician in urologic oncology.

“We will bring together primary care and specialists in heart disease, urology, digestive health, mental health, orthopedics and other key specialties to motivate men to receive comprehensive care throughout their lifetime, with the goal of enhancing their quality and longevity of life,” Ponksy explained.

The program will hinge on using health technologies to create a person-centered design, UH leaders said. Enlisting telehealth and mHealth apps has proven to expand patient access to care. In many cases, these tools help overcome any social pressures patients may feel to not access care, while helping to connect patients in disparate locations to healthcare providers.

But the program will also include a human touch to help move the patient through the healthcare industry.

“We will also have health navigators to remind men of appointments and guide them for seamless care sensitive to each patient’s needs,” Ponsky added. “We will take advantage of our vast primary care network and offer certification in men’s health to primary care physicians to better identify specific needs.”

Ideally, this program will help uncover different barriers keeping men from accessing healthcare and managing their own health, ultimately preventing serious illness.

“The Cutler Center will significantly impact men in Northeast Ohio through a combination of proactive care and personalized treatments,” said Thomas F. Zenty III, UH CEO. “Sandy and Sally recognized the need and are true partners in helping bring about vital change. Their family legacy is clearly one of innovation, generosity and compassion for our community.”