Those looking to get birth control or treatment for urinary tract infections (UTIs) from Planned Parenthood may not even have to show up to a clinic to do so thanks to a new app.
The PPDirect app, which was unveiled last week, allows patients to submit information for a birth control prescription or a UTI consultation.
It’s essentially a digital doctor’s visit.
After answering a series of questions — the same ones that would be asked in-person by a health care provider — the app determines whether the patient is eligible to simply receive their birth control pills in the mail, or, in the case of a UTI, have a prescription called in to their local pharmacy.
Start to finish, ordering birth control through the PPDirect app takes about fifteen minutes, and getting UTI treatment is even quicker. This is a potentially huge time saver, especially for those living in more remote parts of the state in the Eastern Plains or Western Slope where a trip to the nearest clinic could mean a whole day down the drain.
A “doctors visit” on the app for a UTI costs $15, plus the cost of the medication. For birth control pills, it’s a flat fee of $25 a month.
Patients can also use the app to learn about different birth control methods and make an appointment at a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Planned Parenthood officials say the app is part of an effort to fill gaps in access to sexual and reproductive health care created by the Trump Administration, which recently instated a rule barring clinics that provide abortions, or even provide information about abortion, from receiving Title X family planning funds.
While Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which encompasses Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and parts of Nevada, hasn’t received any funding through Title X for nearly two decades, other Planned Parenthood clinics across the U.S. are taking a huge financial hit as a result of the new rule. This week, two Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio announced they’d be shutting down thanks to funding cuts.
“Patients can now receive their health care regardless of whether they live in Elbert County, Grand Junction, or downtown Denver,” said Adrienne Mansanares, Chief Experience Officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, in a press release. “The PPDirect app allows people to get birth control and UTI treatment from the comfort of their home, in their car, or on their lunch break. TeleHealth is all about meeting patients where they are, and we’re excited to make reproductive care that much more accessible for people all across our state. At Planned Parenthood, we know the vast majority of people will use some form of birth control in their lifetimes. Making birth control easy to access is the obvious next step in meeting our patients’ needs.”
The app is currently live in over 27 states, but Planned Parenthood expects it to be available to the whole country by the end of 2020.
The unveiling of the PPDirect app is the latest in the organization’s move to utilize technology to better connect patients to reproductive and sexual health care. Earlier this year, for example, Planned Parenthood released Roo, a chatbot geared toward answering young people’s questions about sexual and reproductive health.
Telemedicine is a new frontier for reproductive health care — and one that conservatives are already gearing up to combat.
A telemedicine model allowing medication abortion without ever requiring the patient to set foot in a clinic is currently being piloted and studied. That would entail chatting with a doctor via videoconference to determine whether the patient is eligible, and then shipping abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol to that patient.
Conservative lawmakers in some states, including Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Idaho, Utah, and West Virginia, have already banned the practice through state legislation.
For now, telemedicine for birth control is unrestricted. Companies like Nurx, The Pill Club, and others have already been offering birth control prescription and delivery services through apps.