Online services safe, effective way to obtain birth control, study finds

Direct-to-consumer telemedicine services are a safe method for receiving prescriptions for oral contraceptives, even when relative and absolute contraindications are present, a new study suggests.

In the study, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine and led by researchers from Boston-based Harvard Medical School and the University of California Davis, seven "secret shoppers" were tasked with purchasing birth control from nine online vendors. In each case, the shoppers filled out online questionnaires, describing in most contraindications such as deep vein thrombosis, migraine with aura, difficulty with daily medication adherence and being a breastfeeding mother.

Each online visit, on average, lasted about 7.5 minutes, and one-third requested follow-ups via text message, phone call or video call. As a result, more than 90 percent of the visits that involved a contraindication adhered to CDC safety guidelines. The yearly prescriptions ranged in price from $67 to $519, and were either sent to a local pharmacy that day or mailed directly to the user's home within two weeks.

"For many women, [telecontraception] is a more attractive option for time and money over physically going to a doctor's office," Ateev Mehrotra, MD, one of the study's authors and an associate professor of healthcare policy and medicine at Harvard Medical School, told the MIT Technology Review.

More articles on telehealth:
Oklahoma State University leverages telemedicine to treat opioid addiction
Texas Health Resources launches telehealth exams for sexual assault victims
Illinois hospital turns to virtual care for hospitalist program

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