Planned Parenthood is expanding its telehealth services to include all 50 states. Patients will be able to tap into the service for some birth control needs, sexually transmitted infection testing, gender-affirming hormone therapy, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), urinary tract infection screen and the morning after pill.
Select Planned Parenthood health centers are also offering abortion counseling through the telehealth services. The organization is pitching this as a way for patients to get care during the coronavirus.
“As a provider in New York, these past few months have been the most challenging of my career. My state has seen the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country and the pandemic has increased barriers to healthcare for many of the communities Planned Parenthood services, people who may not have access to high-quality affordable care from another provider,” Dr. Meera Shah, Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, said during a press call this morning.
“For patients who do not require an in-person visit or require fewer visits, telehealth helps reduce the risk of exposure for COVID-19 for both patients and the healthcare providers and staff, and contributes to community social-distancing efforts.”
Patients are not able to access a medication abortion through telehealth, due to federal and state legislation, according to the agency. However, in some states, portions of this process can be done through telehealth.
These new efforts largely utilize traditional telehealth software.
The organization specified that this isn’t an expansion of Planned Parenthood Direction, an app-based telehealth effort that has been progressively rolling out over the last year. While Planned Parenthood Direct is used in this country-wide initiative, this effort generally uses traditional telehealth software.
WHY IT MATTERS
The organization is pitching this tool as a way to get to its patients, particularly its patients of color and those with low income. Across the country, reports have surfaced that individuals in the black community are seeing higher death rates from the virus than their white counterparts.
“Right now, the public health crisis is exacerbating the health disparities many communities of color have long faced due to structural and environmental racism, discrimination, and economic inequality. Black and Latinx people are facing significant economic hardship as they are more likely to be low-wage essential workers least likely to be able to telecommute, and are contacting the virus at dangerously high rates. These same communities are in dire need of sexual and reproductive healthcare without further endangering their health.”
THE LARGER TREND
Planned Parenthood is no stranger to the digital space. Its most recent efforts include an abortion-care finder and information platform that it officially launched in November of last year.
It has also rolled out a virtual-care tool called Planned Parenthood Direct, which allow users to request birth control, get a prescription for a urinary tract infection or request an in-person appointment. On the call this morning, the Planned Parenthood team noted that, while Planned Parenthood Direct may be used as a telehealth delivery model, today’s announcement isn’t an expansion of the app.
ON THE RECORD
“We’ve seen first-hand the difference direct-to-consumer telehealth can make for patient’s access to health care services. Whether it is having birth control delivered to the Arctic Circle or someone checking in with a doctor on their lunch break to get a prescription,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said on the press call today. “We know that sexual and reproductive services are time sensitive and essential, which is why we are doing all we can to meet the needs of all of our patients.”