How can we design a patient experience that solves the healthcare gender gap?

University Hospitals Cutler Center for Men


Experience Strategy Design Innovation Guide


2022 dmi:Design Value Awards

Men just don’t like going to the doctor. But when this hesitance results in delayed diagnoses and treatments, it can bring serious consequences. ThoughtForm partnered with University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio to address this problem — convening innovators, clinicians, and patients to build a visionary new men’s health experience together. The result is a healthcare delivery model that addresses men’s unique needs and invites them to be the leaders of their own health care journey.

A widespread problem
Throughout the developed world, men seek health care at rates far below that of women. Men are traditionally taught to be stoic, and studies suggest they rely on their partners for many health decisions. However, these customs come with a steep cost. For example, deaths from melanoma are 50% higher in men than women, despite a 50% lower incidence of the disease. Engaging men in their health holds the potential to deliver massive improvements in health outcomes, costs, and quality of life.

A qualified team
One of the 40 largest U.S. health systems with more than 30,000 employees, Cleveland’s University Hospitals (UH) resolved to address this challenge. With a gift from philanthropists Alexander (Sandy) and Sally Cutler, the UH Urology Institute began planning the UH Cutler Center for Men in collaboration with UH Ventures, the organization’s business development and innovation arm. The Center and its executive director, Dr. Lee Ponsky, selected ThoughtForm to co-create an entirely new men’s health experience that could engage men with their health.

We view ThoughtForm not only as our partner in this process, but also as the chief advocate for the experience we've co-created.
Sophie Elias

Business Development & Commercialization Lead
University Hospitals

A multi-faceted solution
We began by asking about the business case. “Just get men engaged with health care. If we can solve that, the rest will follow,” said Dr. Ponsky. Working closely with the UH team over eight months, ThoughtForm tackled the question of engagement from three related perspectives: the clinic environment; human interactions; and the flow of the physical and digital experience. The result is a comprehensive blueprint that translates new insights about men’s needs into an innovative men’s health experience.

Unique features to drive engagement
From the moment a man enrolls in the UH Cutler Center for Men, he has access to team of health concierges who share the nickname “Joe.” Joe guides each man through healthcare’s hassles with a warm human touch, and acts as the gateway to a wide spectrum of services that extend beyond typical healthcare – including financial wellness, building and managing relationships, and integrative medicine. At the Center’s flagship clinic, men have the opportunity to meet a “Joe” in person – receiving concierge-level care far above what you might expect from a doctor visit. Nor is the clinic’s lobby typical. It offers a range of waiting areas designed to meet varying needs and preferences: entertainment, contemplation, or socialization. A “Cutler Bar” offers tech support for apps and wearables that help maintain engagement and wellbeing between doctor visits. As part of a plan for ongoing engagement, men who choose to become members of the Center can earn rewards and recognition for taking positive health steps.

A co-design approach
We developed the UH Cutler Center for Men experience through a deeply collaborative process with a team of UH project leads and specialists. Our teams met weekly to set direction and adjust priorities. Through a series of co-design workshops, we brought UH providers together with men of every age and socioeconomic level to explore the men’s healthcare experience and envision new ways it could work. We discovered that as patients, men seek deeper connections with providers and each other; that they consider mental health essential to their well-being; and that they value recognition for their health achievements.

It's very hard to exceed my expectations – but you've done it.
Dr. Lee Ponsky

University Hospitals Urology Institute

Lasting results
As a result of this work, the UH Cutler Center for Men has a strong foundation for further development. Created early in the project, the ethos statement centers on the idea of empowering men, and serves to guide the entire men’s health experience. A 65-page service model now provides a knowledge base for patient-facing staff. A master experience map details the full experience through dozens of touchpoints, highlighting the make-or break “wow” moments. An ecosystem map centers the UH Cutler Center for Men in a larger context, illustrating the resources and relationships at University Hospitals that fully enable it. As a while, the experience dismantles the barriers that stop men from seeking care offering men-oriented incentives in their place.