Finnish healthcare providers are increasingly targeting men to sell more healthcare products, but experts have raised questions about how necessary some of the services really are.
There is a genuine need to raise awareness about health issues which affect men, especially in their 40s and 50s.
The City of Helsinki says that a third of the men in the capital aged 40 and above are at increased risk of encountering health problems like heart disease and diabetes; while private healthcare provider Pihlajalinna reports that many health organizations have noticed an increase in the number of middle-aged men coming in for health screenings.
That could be why more healthcare companies are tapping into the men’s health market with products tailored especially for male customers.
The hospital’s campaign has the feel of a private member’s club about it, with a dedicated email service; sign-up bonus gifts – including a wellness check-up and flu shots – a dedicated nurse practitioner available for club members to consult; a membership card offering discounts on other hospital services; and a marketing strategy which starts “Do you regularly check your car but not yourself?.
The key to these new services is that the cost of the package of tests is cheaper than if the tests were bought individually. They incentivise men to sign up by offering a classic bargain.
Healthcare for men: the real deal or a bad bargain?
So are these new health services medically necessary, or are they up-selling some services when men generally wouldn’t need, with profit in mind?
According to Lasse Mitronen, Professor of Practice, Marketing at Aalto University, the customer-centric approach is a common marketing trend that’s only recently started to crop up in the Finnish healthcare sector.
“There’s a range of packaged treatments and loyalty programs for sale which are marketed indeed with a customer-in-focus mentality” explains Professor Mitronen.
“The service is based rather on well-being than just on treatment. That’s typical user-centred thinking to offer something more valuable than just a particular service” he tells News Now Finland.
“Some people might consider the healthcare services as a fundamental part of society and that’s why people might have strong opinions for or against” these targeted sales campaigns Mitronen adds.
Päivikki Koponen, Research Manager at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL, has also noticed an increase in marketing lately, which she says is more common in the private sector than the public sector.
“There’s a selection of different blood sample tests and the risk factor scans for chronic diseases for sale on the market, as well as a range of different health checks” she says.
“Such tests can sometimes motivate the people to make some changes in their lives, but often you don’t necessarily need that many complex tests because all the risk factors for major chronic diseases can be identified with fairly simple tests and can be tackled with simple lifestyle changes” she explains.
Health checks don’t reach them who would need it most
Another drawback with relying on men to sign up for a package of health checks is that the people who buy into those schemes are not the ones who are most likely to need the tests.
“The disadvantage here is the fact that often the people who have the least need for the checks will apply them for. These people are already intrinsically interested about their health and follow the recommendations. There is solid research evidence of this” Päivikki Koponen tells News Now Finland.
At Eira Hospital, Marketing Manager Pirjo Luostari notes their men’s health club is most likely to be of interest to customers who are already actively advocating for their own health and wellness – they just need to be encouraged to do it more regularly.
“We’re genuinely concerned about men’s health because they’re rarely taking care of themselves perfectly. A little more effort is indeed needed but it’s getting better steadily” she says.
“Although many of our clients are using occupational health services as well, it’s not that regular after all. At work, however, when you turn 50 you might go for a health check but there’s a need for more regular follow-ups after the age 40″ she explains.
Age 40 is a turning point for men’s health
For many men, 40 is the age they start to take stock of their bad health habits – and want to do something about it. That’s something the new healthcare services targeting men are counting on.
“At age 40, it may be good to think about your own health and, if necessary, seek professional support for lifestyle changes” says THL’s Päivikki Koponen.
The City of Helsinki has been running a campaign called ‘Kundit kondikseen’ – Get in Shape Guys – for more than a decade, which is a free e-health check for all men at age of 40.
The programme “is the result of a long lasting process which we’ve been conducting for over a decade with a purpose to improve men’s health” says Marja-Liisa Lommi, Medical Director at the City of Helsinki.
“Helsinki used to call all the men at age of 40 because that’s a turning point when it comes to health issues and we find it incredibly important” she explains.
When the service went digital in 2015 and 2016 the city’s goal was to make it easier for men to play an active role in managing their own health after 40.
And it seems to be having an effect with 1161 e-health checks carried out during 2019, up from less than a thousand the year before.
Try a free e-health check for men 40+ offered by the City of Helsinki at this link.