National Men’s Health Month: How AI Can Bridge the Gap in Men’s Healthcare

Posted in Feature Articles

June is dedicated to raising awareness about men’s health issues. Throughout the month, efforts aim to encourage men to take proactive steps toward their physical and mental well-being, focusing on preventive care that includes regular check-ups, healthy lifestyle choices, and early detection of diseases. Moreover, June offers healthcare providers and health systems an opportunity to spread awareness about unique health concerns affecting men, such as prostate cancer and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Presently, patient engagement and adherence to care plans pose a significant challenge in healthcare, which extends to the medical treatment of men. Several factors contribute to this challenge, including a lack of communication between providers and patients, complex protocols, social and cultural barriers, and inadequate education about a condition. Meanwhile, research shows that patients actively involved in their medical care are associated with a 21 percent lower cost of care. Yet, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 30 percent of adult patients need help understanding and following through on health information, which can include treatment plans.

Fortunately, technological advances with AI-driven functionality make it easier for providers and patients to communicate and collaborate, which improves health literacy among patients and enables them to become more involved in their healthcare journey.

“When you think about patient engagement, you really want to think about how you can immediately and early get people to engage in their care in such a way that they can affect behavior change as soon as possible to reduce their risk of morbidity or prevent adverse outcomes.”

Health Catalyst Chief Medical Officer Dr. Melissa Welch said during the Improve Patient Engagement Across the Care Journey webinar.

AI Capabilities Improve Patient Engagement, Keep Patients Connected to Care Team

In recent years, healthcare systems have pushed to improve patient engagement to reinforce compliance with clinical pathways. Efforts have gone beyond the traditional paper pamphlet as a means to underscore treatment plans and now include enablement technologies like patient portals. Patient portals allow secure access to medical records, lab results, appointment schedules, and direct contact with healthcare providers.

While patient portals have notably increased patient engagement since their inception, newer applications integrate with existing patient portals to enhance communication and information exchange. These novel tools utilize AI and machine learning, facilitating more personalized therapies and interventions. Thanks to increased provider-patient exchanges, the technologies have also led to improved medication adherence, chronic disease management, and lifestyle modifications across patient populations. Moreover, AI-related capabilities enable clinicians to more quickly and efficiently analyze large datasets to identify trends and high-risk patient populations.

Health Catalyst’s Patient Engagement tool is designed to assist patients throughout their care path and serves as a secure messaging platform. Utilizing AI and machine learning, the application gives patients and their caregivers frequent reminders, assessments, coaching, and education about their care plans. The tool also adapts responses to patients based on their behavior and therapeutic milestones, alerting providers to patients in need of greater attention.

Automated electronic communications via the HIPAA-compliant solution have the potential to transform the patient experience and reduce costs associated with healthcare delivery. Furthermore, remote monitoring strategies accomplish the following:

  1. Adherence and Persistence to Therapy
    Utilization of gold standard pathways for more effective engagement. Patient education, including video and infographics. Check-ins to provide encouragement and support.
  2. Treatment Initiation with Medication or Device
    Collection of insurance information to expedite onboarding. Connect patients to assistance programs as needed.
  3. At-home Screening, Testing, and Monitoring
    Capture real-world data from devices, satisfaction surveys, and patient-reported outcomes.
  4. Delivery of Digital Therapies (DTx)
    Promotion of health equity by expanding access to underserved populations. Improve adoption and utilization of DTx with customized engagement.

Optimize Clinical Adoption and Patient Compliance with AI Technology

The technology’s algorithm is customizable and can be tailored to help providers more effectively diagnose and treat the male population and help men overcome barriers with the following features:

  • Patient education in the form of videos and other content highlights the importance of regular screenings, self-examinations, and preventative care, including prostate, colonoscopy, and cholesterol screenings. Tailoring the content to the patient also empowers them to take proactive steps toward prevention and early detection.
  • Secure SMS text reminders and HIPAA-compliant integrations help men stay on track with prescription medications and automated refills, reducing the risk of complications, side effects, and non-compliance.
  • Algorithms that analyze various data points and patterns can identify men’s mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, and depression, and reduce the stigma associated with accessing mental health resources and services.
  • Remote patient monitoring, such as at-home blood glucose and blood pressure monitoring, allows for real-time data capture of vital signs or disease-specific measurements. Such tracking enables providers to intervene early, facilitate follow-up visits, and adjust medications quickly.

Dr. Welch said remote-access monitoring and frequent provider-patient communications offer “a simple way to detect high blood pressure effectively” off-site, with minor inconvenience to the patient’s schedule. Moreover, using AI-based technology simplifies and improves diagnoses and allows providers to code patient visits with greater precision, resulting in higher reimbursements, she added.

Address Health Inequities with AI-Powered Patient Engagement Tool

Another benefit of AI-enabled remote technology is the ability to more easily identify hard-to-reach disenfranchised populations, Dr. Welch said. These groups often miss out on healthcare services or are neglected due to poverty, lack of access, proximity, or social stigma. With predictive analytics capabilities, however, healthcare providers can identify social determinants of health that prevent these groups from seeking medical care. As a result, providers can craft personalized communications and offer more targeted interventions. Accordingly, men who would have otherwise slipped through the cracks can now receive the care they need, whether it’s preventive measures or ongoing attention for recurrent conditions, enabling health systems to accomplish their population health goals.

Creating healthcare environments that are more accommodating to men has made patient engagement strategies an essential part of healthcare delivery today. However, even with patient portals offering a convenient way for patients to communicate with their care team, the slow uptake of these portals by patients remains a significant obstacle. By utilizing tools that automate communication, personalize engagement, and support dialogue between male patients and their medical providers, men can stay in control of their health and experience better outcomes, increased satisfaction, and greater access to the care they need.

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