Want birth control or drugs to treat a urinary tract infection but can’t get to a doctor’s office soon enough? Planned Parenthood’s Direct telemedicine app, currently available to roughly half of women living in the United States, including those in the three most populous states — Texas, California, and Florida — will be available to all U.S. women by 2020, the nonprofit announced on September 4. The app helps reduce barriers — such as time, transportation, office hours, and appointment availability — that interfere with healthcare, said McGill Johnson. “We are committed to breaking down barriers and reaching people wherever they are.
By leveraging technology and combining it with the trusted expert care of our providers, we are determined to continue filling the gap in healthcare access so that more people can stay healthy and reach their life goals, regardless of their ZIP code or income,” she said.
Telemedicine Features Are Part of the Reaction to Defunding
In August, Planned Parenthood stopped being a part of the federal Title X grant program, which helps provide birth control and women’s health services to low-income women; the nonprofit would not limit sharing information about abortion to its patients, per a federal ruling on Title X funding. While the app’s development is not a direct response to the Title X decision, its availability helps the nonprofit ensure that as many people as possible — including Title X–eligible patients — get the care they need.
How Telemedicine and Virtual Visits Work
With the app, Planned Parenthood practitioners can conduct virtual visits when required by state law; in those states that don’t require visits, patient-provider communications can happen by text. There is often a fee for a virtual visit, but in some states, video conferencing is free for birth control–related appointments. Providers speak with patients via videoconferencing or text in order to correctly diagnose and prescribe medications for a urinary tract infection or certain birth control methods. It can help people avoid an in-person visit when it isn’t easy to get to an office. Doing so helps women get their questions answered, obtain an accurate UTI diagnosis, and get a prescription filled — all remotely.
As of September 2019, the app currently works in the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia. The app will be available in all 50 states by the end of 2020. Users can sign up by email to get notified when the app delivery services will be available in their area. They can also find links to their closest Planned Parenthood clinics for ongoing healthcare needs.
How much will it cost to place an order via the app?
Birth control costs differ based on where you live, but they start at $20 (per monthly pack), which covers the medication, the counseling given via the app, and shipping. While the app doesn’t currently accept insurance for items shipped to your home, in some states you can pick up birth control ordered through the app at a local pharmacy and use an insurance card when paying at the pharmacy counter. For UTI treatment, costs begin at $15 in some states for the counseling through the app; medication costs range from $4 to $60, depending on which drugs are prescribed and where you live. Again, insurance can cover some or most of the cost of meds picked up at a local pharmacy. The app accepts most credit, debit, and prepaid cards.