Examining telehealth use in sexual and reproductive health
Telehealth, the remote provision of health care services using information and communication technology, is becoming increasingly popular as a health care delivery model. In the last decade, telehealth has emerged as a tool to address barriers to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, including service availability, affordability, and distance to receive care—but in spite of its growing ubiquity, research on the usability and effectiveness of telehealth remains limited.
Evidence of the safety, effectiveness, and acceptability of telehealth for SRH care, as well as its ability to connect individuals in remote or rural areas with health care, may influence policies aimed at restricting or expanding the use of telehealth. We believe that innovation in health care delivery is key to advancing sexual and reproductive autonomy, increasing choice in health care, and meeting client needs.
In Iowa in 2011, Ibis evaluated the first telehealth for medication abortion service in the United States. Since then, we have evaluated in-clinic telehealth for medication abortion models in several other states, as well as a direct-to-patient telehealth for medication abortion model—where the client is at home or another convenient location when receiving care. Across each of these settings, we observed that telehealth for medication abortion was acceptable to providers and clients. Further, we have demonstrated the acceptability of and support for telehealth for medication abortion among telehealth stakeholders, as well as non-medical abortion providers like abortion doulas. We have also synthesized the evidence on telehealth for family planning (abortion and contraception), and highlighted the feasibility of using telehealth to provide family planning services to hard-to-reach populations. We continue to build the evidence on safety, feasibility, and acceptability of telehealth, as well as its impacts on SRH access across geographic settings and using other modalities.