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Catch the “little things:” Doctor urges men to be more vigilant, proactive with preventative health care to lengthen their lives

Dr Jerry Hautman knows for a fact that preventative care visits with a physician can save lives, because he believes he represents a dramatic case in point.

 

The chief medical officer for population health at UnitedHealthcare, Dr Hautman credits a bit of nagging from his wife, a nurse. She pushed him to pay a visit to his primary care doctor some 20 years ago.

 

“She made sure that even though I was young and fit, a distance runner, that I went for an annual preventative visit. I mentioned to the doctor that I had this pain in my neck,” recalled Dr Hautman. “Thirteen days later I was starting chemotherapy for non-Hodgkins lymphoma.”

 

Men are 50% less likely than women to seek routine and preventative health care for both their physical and mental health. But there is an emerging body of research based on the millions of patients covered by UnitedHealthcare that proves that women—wives, partners and mothers—are making a difference in the health of the reluctant men in their lives.

 

“Our research uses something we call the Health Activation Index to measure 53 decisions about health care. We found that if the Health Activation Index of the woman in the family goes up by ten points, the Health Activation Index of everyone in the family goes up ten points,” he said. “This shows us that if you successfully convince the woman of the family that screenings are important, you can almost count on the man in her life showing up for his screening.”

 

Dr. Hautman used the observance of Men’s Health Month in June as an opportunity to urge men to schedule regular visits with their primary care doctor.

 

“When we tell men to go to the doctor, we often hear, ‘Why? I feel fine. There is nothing wrong with me,’” he said. “The number one reason I give them to go is to confirm that. Then you can feel good that nothing is wrong.”

 

As men settle in to middle age, screening for prostate health becomes important, along with screening for colon and skin cancer. Health care providers lament that too many younger men don’t schedule routine check-ups. Dr Hautman cited a review of millennial men within the UnitedHealthcare population of 14 million people that finds that 10% have not seen a doctor or filled a prescription in two years.

 

“I want to convince men that it’s important to catch little things before they become big things. For example, high blood pressure. You don’t feel it; that’s why it’s a silent killer,” he said. “But if we pick it up when you’re 37 and have you take a tiny pill every day, then you don’t have that heart attack 22 years later, you don’t have that stroke when you’re 58.”

 

Dr Hautman reminds men that they need to be aware of the stress in their lives and to “take it down a notch” by seeking activities they enjoy and spending time with people they love.  He is heartened by the number of men who have sought mental health support from a professional in recent years. He credits a new tool for accessing care for the uptick.

 

“We are seeing some fantastic results from the ability to use virtual care. You don’t have to drive to an office; you can do this from the privacy of your home or even the privacy of your car. We are seeing a 30% increase in the utilization of services for men between the ages of 28 and 55,” he said. 

 

He encourages men to be alert to what may seem like even small or insignificant changes they observe in their bodies and to be sure to mention them to their health care providers.

 

“When you go to the doctor, you are the key participant at that visit. If you don’t tell about an ache or pain, there’s a chance we miss what might be going on,” Dr Hautman warned. “You have got to participate.”

 

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