“Is it safe to get birth control from an app?” We hear that question pretty often, from people who can’t shake the idea that getting top-quality medical care requires a paper gown. Our answer has always been an emphatic yes. Our online medical assessments are created by board-certified clinicians based on research-backed guidelines, and interactions between our patients and our providers are every bit as thorough and personalized as an in-person appointment.
Even though we’re 100% confident in the quality and safety of the Nurx method of telehealth, it still feels great to have scientific evidence that the way we deliver care is not only safe, but actually safer than having contraception prescribed in many in-person settings. That evidence was published last week in the form of a study conducted by researchers at Harvard and University of California Davis medical schools and appearing in the prestigious, peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.
In the study, women “secret shopped” telehealth services including Nurx to request prescriptions for birth control. The women had a range of medical conditions, such as a history of deep vein thrombosis or migraine with aura, which meant that combination birth control (which contains both estrogen and progestin), and in some cases all hormonal birth control, would not be a good option for them. The researchers were curious to see if these women would be able to obtain birth control prescriptions through telehealth providers, despite clinical guidelines that would advise against it.
The results? The telehealth providers didn’t prescribe birth control that would be dangerous for these women, and told them that they were either limited to progestin-only contraception (which is safe for conditions including deep vein thrombosis and migraine with aura), or that they couldn’t safely prescribe any contraception and that the patient would need to follow up with her in-person physician for care.
The study found not only that getting birth control this way is safe, but that “adherence to guidelines among telecontraception vendors may be higher than it is among clinics who provide in-person visits.” What that means is that we are providing our patients with a just as safe – if not safer – environment than a traditional doctor setting. The researchers concluded that telehealth can break down barriers to birth control by offering convenience and accessibility
While this evidence is validating to our method of providing care, it isn’t surprising to us. The physicians on the Nurx medical provider team often tell us that practicing medicine this way actually allows them to provide better care.
“I spent a number of years working in an outpatient internal medicine practice, and rarely did patients ask many questions about potentially embarrassing topics. People feel much freer when sending an essentially anonymous text…I can take as much time as I need to respond thoughtfully and can look up medical articles and consult with colleagues if I don’t immediately know the answer. I don’t have to worry about patients getting backed up in the waiting room. It’s easy for both the patients and the providers to ask another question or add something they may have forgotten to say earlier. For as long as I’ve been with the company — and I was one of the first doctors hired on — we have consistently erred on the side of practicing conservative medicine.” — Dr. Nancy Shannon, MD, PhD
We hear from patients all the time that our providers spent more time and took more care with their birth control prescriptions than in-person doctors have. Often they tell us that their Nurx provider caught a contraindication for combination birth control (like migraine with aura) that no previous doctor had mentioned or bothered to ask about. And although less scientific than a peer-reviewed study, our favorite proof points are notes like this one from Nurx patients: “I felt like your doctor actually took more time to put thought into my consultation than a lot of face-to-face doctor appointments. I also am a huge believer in telemedicine, especially for busy working moms like myself who have no time!”.
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of Nurx™.