How is a Medical Visit Like A Ball Game?

The world came to San Francisco this weekend. The 49ers hosted the NFC Championship football game at Candlestick Park and it was a day for ages. Friends clamored for tickets, taking seats at any price. Some bought tickets like they were playing the stock market: buy sooner if it rains, later if it doesn’t, or the day before, but not on game day. Not only tailgating, burgers and beer, but stories and tales all flowed freely.  A perfect male-bonding experience.

The Culture of Men

As any ball game will convey, clearly the culture of men is fundamentally different from that of women. During my previous life as a decorated academic, my medical office was situated squarely in the middle of a women’s health center, complete with fake impressionist paintings on pink walls, flowers in cute vases and bathrooms with tampon dispensers.  Magazines like “Shape,” “Woman’s World” and “O-The Oprah Magazine” covered the waiting room coffee tables. Simply not the best place for male DNA to visit, say nothing of being comfortable there.

The Turek Clinic as Man Cave

Having close to an allergic reaction to this, when I ventured out to create a men’s health clinic, I tried to replicate the ball game experience in a medical office. Here are the essential elements that I considered:

  1. Street parking. For some reason, men prefer it; don’t ask me why.
  2. Convenience.  Ball games start on time and (generally) finish on time. Medical visits should also be on time. No long lines, no waiting.
  3. One chance. There are no second chances in playoffs games. When helping men, do as much done as possible in a single office visit. Use follow-up phone appointments after that.
  4. Personality. Sports teams have players and, as everyone knows, players have personality. Men want to know their doctor’s personality. It helps them to develop trust. Sure, a “power wall” of diplomas is nice, but how about hanging a balsa wood surf board in the lobby along with a stylized picture of a late 60s Maserati Ghibli. Men need to trust that their doctor is human and understands them.
  5. Space. Ball games are often outdoors, often in chest-beating, cold weather. Bringing that outdoor feeling inside is important. Floor to ceiling windows facing the San Francisco Bay is perfect, with plenty of room to lounge around on Wi-Fi. And cover the coffee table with men’s magazines, a whole slew of them. Oh, also make sure that there’s ESPN or surfing movies on a large flat screen TV.
  6. The Staff.  Here’s where a medical office can beat a ticket taker at a ball game. Imagine being greeted first thing in the morning by a smiling face and an offer of coffee or tea. The essence of The Turek Clinic approach.
  7. Long visits. Ball games take time. Medical office visits should too. Most men are nervous for the first several minutes of any doctor’s visit. Honestly, what can you expect to learn from a patient during that time? The book is just opening. This is precisely why I never understood the average, 12-minute doctor’s visit. Men need time to open up and relax. Not only that, I am convinced that listening to men is the secret to curing their ills.

So is a visit to The Turek Clinic the same as attending a NFC playoff game? Probably not. But it is about as comfortable as men will ever be in a doctor’s office. And they will remember this comfort and trust in the doctor. And if they remember, instead of quietly suffering through another problem in the future, they will reach out and call again. And that is the key to great care for men.