August 26, 2015 — Women in Alaska can now obtain birth control remotely via Planned Parenthood's Get Care application, which can be used on mobile devices and desktop computers, the Juneau Empire reports.
The Get Care app connects patients with Planned Parenthood clinicians, who can provide contraception after a consultation via video chat. Users can install the app on a desktop computer by visiting the Web portal, or download the app to a smartphone or tablet. According to the Empire, the app uses encrypted technology to protect patient privacy.
Using the app, patients can "video visit" with a clinician and select birth control pills, a vaginal ring or a hormonal patch, and the contraceptive method they choose is mailed to them in discreet packaging. Erin Mahony, a nurse practitioner who works with a program, said the video consultations are available throughout the work week, as well as on weekends and during the evening.
Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, said the services could be particularly helpful for women who face challenges scheduling or traveling to an in-person consultation as well as women who live in small towns where privacy can be limited.
The Get Care app also is available in Minnesota and Washington state (Griffiths, Juneau Empire, 8/24). Meanwhile, the organization offers an app that allows individuals in three states -- California, Minnesota and Washington state -- to purchase at-home tests for two sexually transmitted infections (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/24). Planned Parenthood intends to make the STI testing app available in Alaska in the future.
The video consultations cost $45 for people without insurance. Meanwhile, insured residents -- other than those who are covered through Medicaid, which does not cover video services -- should be covered for the video consultations.
According to Charbonneau, some individuals whose insurers do not contract with Planned Parenthood have successfully petitioned their insurer for the out-of-pocket costs. She added that Planned Parenthood is pushing for the federal government to have Medicaid support use of technology in health care. Meanwhile, low-income individuals might qualify for financial assistance.
App Helps Women in Rural Communities, Keeps Care Private
Charbonneau noted that the app is particularly helpful for women in Alaska, which is a very rural state with only four Planned Parenthood clinics.
She also cited how it can help women keep their reproductive health decisions private in smaller towns, noting, "It's private, you get what you need -- it's the next best way of providing preventive health" (Juneau Empire, 8/24).