HumanInsight Remote Delivery in Reproductive Health Care: Operation of Direct-to-Patient Teleheath Medication Abortion Services in Diverse Settings
Ann Fam Med. 2022 Jul 13:2821. doi: 10.1370/afm.2821. Online ahead of print.
PURPOSE: Established models of reproductive health service delivery were disrupted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This study examines rapid innovation of remote abortion service operations across health care settings and describes the use of telehealth consultations with medications delivered directly to patients.
METHODS: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 21 clinical staff from 4 practice settings: family planning clinics, online medical services, and primary care practices-independent or within multispecialty health systems. Clinicians and administrators described their telehealth abortion services. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. Staff roles, policies, and procedures were compared across practice settings.
RESULTS: Across all practice settings, telehealth abortion services consisted of 5 operational steps: patient engagement, care consultations, payment, medication dispensing, and follow-up communication. Online services and independent primary care practices used asynchronous methods to determine eligibility and complete consultations, resulting in more efficient services (2-5 minutes), while family planning and health system clinics used synchronous video encounters requiring 10-30 minutes of clinician time. Family planning and health system primary care clinics mailed medications from clinic stock or internal pharmacies, while independent primary care practices and online services often used mailorder pharmacies. Online services offered patients asynchronous follow-up; other practice settings scheduled synchronous appointments.
CONCLUSIONS: Rapid innovations implemented in response to disrupted in-person reproductive health care included remote medication abortion services with telehealth assessment/follow-up and mailed medications. Though consistent operational steps were identified across health care settings, variation allowed for adaptation of services to individual sites. Understanding remote abortion service operations may facilitate dissemination of a range of patient-centered reproductive health services.
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