Technology

Telehealth: men’s sexual health silver lining of COVID-19

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Telehealth is booming. The necessity of treating patients in the midst of shelter in place orders and massive systemic strains is giving rise to the suddenly accelerated trend of virtual consults.

Virtual health visits across the board were up 50 percent in March and are on track to hit 1 billion by the end of the year.

The rise of telehealth promises positive outcomes for years to come as doctors are able to see more patients and patients receive instant and convenient medical advice. Further, and of particular importance to men, virtual consults empower patients to seek treatment for things they might not have previously.

Telephone, video, and email treatment enables sufferers of sensitive conditions to seek help from the privacy of their own home – something which experts believe could hold major implications for treating men’s sexual health.

Today, sexual health remains taboo for many men who still feel a certain degree of unnecessary embarrassment.

In fact, one-quarter of men in a study reported they would rather break up with their partner than talk about erectile dysfunction (ED) with a doctor.

Even those diagnosed with ED typically defer treatment, with another study finding 75% of those diagnosed with the condition fail to fill out a prescription or follow medical advice.

Mat Rezaei
Mat Rezaei

“To improve health outcomes and change societal attitudes, we really need to ensure men are given the best care and feel as comfortable as possible during the process. I think telehealth offers the best way for us to do that.” — Mat Rezaei

Mat Rezaei, pharmacist, CEO, and Founder of UPGUYS, told The Sociable that the possibility for discreet dialogue on sexual health was something his patients have always wanted.

“This continues to be a sensitive issue for many men and we are finding that patients much prefer this type of consultation instead of face to face appointments,” said Rezaei.

Telehealth platforms which specialize in sexual health – like UPGUYS in Canada and Roman in the US – are bringing treatment into the modern age.

Patients have the ability to safely access virtual advice, on-demand treatment, and direct-to-door medicine deliveries, which Rezaei said presents an especially liberating possibility amidst lockdown.

Moreover, telehealth continues to facilitate treatment at a time of great strain on global medical systems. An overview of Italian urological services during COVID-19, published in Nature, noted the difficulties of delivering sexual health medicine during the pandemic.

Restrictive measures of social distancing and the limitation of travel forced health providers to establish which diagnostic procedures and outpatient visits were to be considered mandatory and which would be delayed.

As a result, those in need of ED therapy were not able to access treatment.

The expansion of digitized medical consultancy works to serve such patients and deliver better outcomes.

A recent study showed that patients using telemedicine were more engaged in their healthcare – an important development in men’s sexual health as ED can be a symptom of underlying conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and stress.

Still, for many men, sexual health remains tied to notions of manhood. It will be interesting to see in the coming years, then, whether the increasing ease of access to such medical products will help men move past taboo and towards bettering their health.

Rezaei and others in the industry are optimistic.

“Men’s sexual health is a complicated and often psychological issue,” he said. “To improve health outcomes and change societal attitudes, we really need to ensure men are given the best care and feel as comfortable as possible during the process. I think telehealth offers the best way for us to do that.”

Disclaimer: This story contains a client of an ESPACIO portfolio company.

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Jeffrey Kitt
Jeffrey Kitt is a journalist from Western Australia with a special interest in tech and politics.