Health

Planned Parenthood launches birth control app in Iowa

Telehealth app lets patients consult with doctor, then have prescription mailed to their home

Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa executive director of Planned Parenthood North Central States (2019 handout photo)
Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa executive director of Planned Parenthood North Central States (2019 handout photo)
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Planned Parenthood is expanding access to its telehealth app in Iowa, allowing greater availability for birth control and other medical treatments from its clinics even as federal and state officials are restricting its capabilities.

Planned Parenthood North Central States announced on Wednesday in Iowa the launch of Planned Parenthood Direct — a smartphone app that allows patients to consult with a clinician and have a birth control prescription sent directly to their home.

“Planned Parenthood Direct offers Iowans the same high-quality reproductive health care they trust us to provide whenever and wherever they want,” Erin Davison-Rippey, Iowa executive director of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said in a news release.

“We are always evolving to make health care more accessible to our patients by breaking down the barriers they face, despite increasing efforts by politicians nationally and in Iowa to limit their options,” she said in the release.

Patients can complete a health assessment through the telehealth app and determine their eligibility for online care from a clinician at any time of day. If they are eligible for online care, the clinician can write a prescription and send it directly to them.

Refills also are managed by the patient through the app.

Insurance isn’t accepted through Planned Parenthood Direct, which costs $20 a month. There is no cost for shipping.

Birth control pills are only available through the app. Other forms of birth control are not included in the app for Iowans.

Patients must live in Iowa and have an in-state address to use the app.

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“Yes, there is a cost, but for many people cost is not the only barrier. It is literally physical access,” Davison-Rippey said in an email.

“If you are taking a day off of work to drive four counties over to access birth control, then this is a more cost-effective option. It doesn’t completely fix the problem, but it does increase access particularly in areas of the state where birth control is becoming harder to get.”

Planned Parenthood Direct is available in 27 states and Washington, D.C. The organization plans to make the app accessible nationwide by the end of 2020, officials said in a news release.

Nationwide, Planned Parenthood Direct so far has seen 300,000 downloads, according to officials.

Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa and other states withdrew from Title X this past month after the Trump administration began enforcing new regulations on the federal grant program. The program was the sole federal funding source for family planning services for low-income Americans.

Iowa clinics in Iowa City, Urbandale, Ames, Des Moines and Council Bluffs no longer were eligible for about $1 million in funding, used for services that include contraceptives, cancer screening, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa worked with about 14,000 patients through Title X in 2018, Jamie Burch Elliott, public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood North Central States, previously told The Gazette.

In 2017, state lawmakers forged federal funding to create the $3 million State Family Planning Program, which funneled state dollars to health care clinics that do that provide abortion services. As a result, four Planned Parenthood clinics closed that year.

Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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