June 24, 2015 — Planned Parenthood Federation of America this month rolled out mobile applications that allow individuals in California, Minnesota and Washington state to purchase at-home tests for two sexually transmitted infections, Reuters reports.
Based on how well the launch goes, PPFA intends to make similar apps available to users throughout the U.S.
Users -- who must be at least 16 years old -- can use Apple or Android stores to download the Planned Parenthood Direct app, through which they can order chlamydia and gonorrhea test kits. The app is free, but the kits cost $149, which includes two-way shipping, testing and, if necessary, a prescription.
The kits are delivered to consumers in discreetly packaged shipments that include instructions on how to use the tests. After receiving the kits, users send a urine sample to PPFA labs. Users can communicate with doctors and nurses while they wait to receive their results on the app.
Users who test positive for an STI must record a brief video giving their consent to treatment. After receiving consent, physicians will write a prescription for patients who have tested positive for chlamydia and refer patients who tested positive for gonorrhea to a health clinic for injections.
Users in Minnesota and Washington also can communicate through video with PPFA providers to request prescriptions for contraception, which would be delivered confidentially. According to Reuters, the apps for users in Minnesota and Washington state work with health insurance companies, but the California app does not.
Jeffrey Klausner, an infectious disease specialist at University of California-Los Angeles, expressed concern about the cost and accessibility of the STI testing service. "My concern is that it is $149 for a chlamydia and gonorrhea test, which is about 10 times what the cost is at most community-based clinics and 20 times what the actual cost is at federal clinics," he said, adding, "It's a good idea, but it won't reach poor or underserved people or teenagers."
However, Ana Sandoval, communications and operations director at Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, noted that the cost of treatment is provided in the service, making it a comparatively affordable home test. She added, "It's just important for people to get tested."
Leah Millheiser, director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford Health Care, said the apps could help women whose schedules prevent them from visiting a clinic, as well as those who feel uncomfortable making an in-person visit.
She said, "I think the idea of having an app that allows a woman to test for ST[I]s in the privacy of her own home and get the results in the privacy of her own home opens the door potentially to more women being screened" (Gaitan, Reuters, 6/22).