Virginia Planned Parenthood launches new mobile app to expand birth control access

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Since October, about 1,000 Virginia patients have accessed either birth control or urinary-tract infection treatment from their smart phones, thanks to the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood’s new app.

Patients can download the app — which was developed by the national Planned Parenthood organization — and fill out a health questionnaire just as they would if they went into the doctor’s office, said Medical Director Shanthi Ramesh. Then a clinician reviews health information within one business day before sending a prescription either to the patient’s home or their designated pharmacy if they are eligible for medication.

“For us, the app was really a no-brainer in terms of reaching populations for whom it’s hard to get to the office,” Ramesh said. “We’re open in person seven days a week, but even still it can be hard to get the time off of work and school.”

Patients log into the app at all hours, she said, even in the middle of the night. And though the organization only has locations in Richmond and Hampton Roads, patients from all over the state have used it.

Right now Planned Parenthood offers virtual access for only birth control pills and urinary-tract infection medication, but eventually it will expand to additional forms of birth control, such as rings and patches, as well as emergency contraception.

So, too, does Planned Parenthood expect the use of the app to pick up. Ramesh said, based on the increased volume it’s seen so far, the organization anticipates that by 2020 about 1,500 patients will use it every month.

The app allows some back-and-forth communication between the clinician and the patient, and in-person visits are offered to those who need additional consultation.