By customizing communications to patients’ needs and preferences, healthcare teams can target barriers to preventive healthcare.

Healthcare providers know that men and women have different needs when it comes to preventive care. Gender-specific preventive screenings and tests are one obvious difference. And yet, men and women share something in common when it comes to preventive healthcare—they both notoriously delay or skip recommended preventive exams and procedures.

Engaging patients with automated communications—such as text messages, emails and voice messages—between appointments is one way healthcare teams can encourage patient participation in preventive care. But just as men and women have different healthcare needs, they also have different communication expectations. Understanding the similarities and differences between men’s and women’s communication preferences allows healthcare teams to periodically send patients tailored messages that support prevention and wellness, as well as other areas of healthcare.

Fewer than half of women (48%) believe that their healthcare providers want to communicate with them between appointments.

West conducted a survey to learn about the similarities and differences between the expectations and communication preferences of men and women. The survey captured insights from 1,037 adults in the U.S. (504 men and 532 women). Survey findings revealed that an overwhelming majority of patients:

• Would like providers to make preventive care recommendations or schedule appointments for screenings (men 96%, women 94%)
• Would like providers to send automated communications, such as automated text messages, emails or voice call reminders, to encourage patients to take specific actions, such as scheduling appointments (men 88%, women 88%)
• Are in agreement that healthcare providers do not communicate with patients enough outside of appointments (men 76%, women 72%)

The survey findings confirmed that both men and women value between-visit communication from their healthcare providers. By customizing communications to patients’ needs and preferences, healthcare teams can target barriers to preventive healthcare.


Helping women make time for healthcare

Patients skip preventive services for many reasons. According to one study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly one in four women (23%) admit that they have delayed or put off receiving healthcare services because they could not find time to go to the doctor. The study found that making time for healthcare may be slightly more challenging for women than it is for men. Fewer than one in five men (18%) report having delayed or gone without healthcare as a result of not having enough time to go to the doctor. By recognizing that women in particular may struggle to prioritize preventive healthcare because of time constraints or scheduling issues, healthcare teams can design and send messages that underline the importance of preventive healthcare or inform patients of extended hours and flexible scheduling options. Healthcare teams can also send women reminders when they are due for preventive care, such as mammograms, to prevent routine screenings from falling off the radar when women are busy. Automated message prompts are easy to send using the patient engagement technology many providers and organizations already use to send appointment reminders, and they are helpful for women who are busy or who hesitate to make time for their own healthcare.

West’s survey found that fewer than half of women (48%) believe that their healthcare providers want to communicate with them between appointments. Men are somewhat more confident—nearly two in three men (65%) believe healthcare providers want to communicate between appointments. Healthcare teams that send relevant text messages, emails or voice messages to engage patients between visits demonstrate their commitment to between visit communication and reaffirm that they care about patients’ health and helping them maintain it. West’s survey found that, for women, this show of support is crucial. Women suggest it is important to feel satisfied with the healthcare providers they visit because they want:

• Help improving or maintaining their health (59% women, 46% men)
• To feel like healthcare providers care about their health (66% women, 50% men)
• To feel like they are receiving the best possible care (70% women, 56% men)
Targeted engagement communications that promote prevention and wellness can help providers accomplish all these things.

Building better connections with men

When considering what barriers prevent men from participating in routine preventive care, one clear problem is that men may not have an established relationship with a primary care physician. Just 68 percent of men (vs. 81 percent of women) say they have a doctor that they routinely visit for care. Good communication can help build rapport with male patients and foster long-term patient-provider relationships. West’s survey revealed that nearly three in four men (73%) agree with the statement “I wish healthcare providers would communicate with me more often between appointments.” Sending men automated messages about preventive healthcare topics is a good way to help them feel more connected to their healthcare team, educate them about prevention and wellness and encourage them to participate in preventive care.


Engagement communications can come in many different formats. Providers and organizations may want to:
• Send patients an email newsletter about men’s health to share preventive information.
• Text men to notify them when they are due for an annual physical and provide an option to respond and schedule an appointment.
• Send a voice message to inform men of opportunities to get a flu shot or to encourage patients to stay current on immunizations.
These are just a few of the many ways healthcare providers can use automated communications to connect with and strengthen bonds with male patients. The point is that there are a number of men who aren’t receiving preventive healthcare exams and services, and who don’t feel they have a trusted physician in their corner to proactively encourage routine health maintenance. But healthcare teams that recognize that their male patients prefer to be contacted by providers between appointments may be able to positively impact men’s use of preventive healthcare.

Automated engagement communications are valuable because they can be tailored to address the unique needs and preferences of any patient population—men, women, millennials, baby boomers and any other groups. By leveraging patient engagement technology that most healthcare organizations are already using, providers can send communications that are targeted toward the needs of men and women in order to drive greater participation in preventive behaviors and healthcare services.

Nate Brogan is president of Notification Services at West Corp.