Planned Parenthood is diving deeper into virtual care with the launch of Planned Parenthood Direct in 27 states. The new platform will let users request birth control, get a prescription for urinary tract infection treatments and request an in-person appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center.
The new technology will be available in all 50 states by the end of 2020, according to officials.
“The Planned Parenthood Direct app is helping to minimize barriers such as time, transportation, office hours and availability,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said during a press event this afternoon. “At Planned Parenthood we are committed to breaking down barriers and reaching people wherever they are no matter what. By leveraging technology and combining it with the trusted expert care of our providers, we are determined to continue to fill the gap of healthcare access so more people can stay healthy and reach their life goals regardless of zip code or income.”
The new technology was born out of two pilot programs that were rolled out in 2014 and 2015 across six states.
“We took what we learned from these pilots to launch one telehealth app — Planned Parenthood Direct,” McGill Johnson said.
This announcement comes just weeks after the organization announced that it will be withdrawing from the Title X program, a federal family planning program for low-income patients, following the Trump administration's recent ruling prohibiting these funds to be used for abortion counseling or referrals. McGill Johnson said that Planned Parenthood serves 40% of all Title X patients. Despite this, she reaffirmed during the event that the organization will continue to deliver healthcare.
“At Planned Parenthood we will not let this administration or anyone else deter us from our mission of delivering healthcare and information to as many as possible,” she said.
WHY IT MATTERS
The organization's leaders are pitching the new rollout as a way to expand its services to more patients. In particular, the app caters to patients living in rural and remote communities, as well as patients who traditionally have been underserved, such as low-income and minority women.
“Many of our patients have to travel long distances to get care, have difficulty to get time off of work or finding childcare, work multiple jobs or have trouble getting an appointment when they need one,” Kelly Gordon, advanced practice clinician from Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands, said during the press event. “This is especially true for people living in remote or rural communities and for people who have historically faced the greatest barrier to care, such as people of color and people with low income. But through telehealth we can literally meet people where they are to get them the care they need, when they need it: after work, on their lunch break and on their phone.”
THE LARGER TREND
This is hardly the first time Planned Parenthood has dipped its toes into the digital waters. In January the organization rolled out a new chatbot, dubbed Roo, designed to help teenage girls get answers to questions about sexual health and puberty.
In 2016 it rolled out an app called Spot On that helps users track their period and manage their birth control.
Additionally, Planned Parenthood has been involved with telemedicine care. The organization conducted a study, recently published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, about using telemedicine for medication abortion, finding that it had comparable results to those accessing in-person care.