SanFrancisco, CA – A growing number of apps and online services are now providing women with much easier access to birth control prescriptions, and are quietly gaining popularity. Leveraging modern telemedicine techniques and principles, these digital ventures are providing prescriptions written by HCPs after the user answers questions about their health online or by video. They all are able to prescribe birth control pills, and some can provide additional products such as patches, rings and morning-after pills. Some services, like Lemonaid, can even provide access to prescriptions for non-reproductive issues, such as acne, erectile dysfunction, and urinary tract infections.
While they do vary in age restrictions, acceptance of insurance, and distribution model, all of these apps and websites operate in accordance with telemedicine regulations, and only within the states that their doctors are licensed to prescribe in. However, given the current number of services available, pretty much every eligible woman in the US has access to one or more.
And while the potential for controversy and conservative backlash does exist, these services have largely flown under the radar. The major reason is that unlike other measures to broaden access to reproductive health, they require no taxpayer action, political maneuvering, or legislation. Their surging use can truly be attributed to a word-of-mouth phenomenon.
Check out this NY Times article for some more details and soundbites from women who use and trust these services.
Why this matters:
There are a variety of barriers that can prevent women from getting contraceptive medicines, ranging from logistical (cost, wait-time, access to a physician) to emotional (embarrassment, intimidation, scrutiny), and these new services are positioned to alleviate many of these. Telehealth options have steadily been providing much needed alternatives to the inflexible appointment-based model, but the benefits message has mostly been one of convenience and immediacy. Perhaps we are also seeing that by given their nature, telehealth dynamics are a natural fit for management of conditions where social anxiety and intimidation may go hand-in-hand with face-to-face HCP visits.