New app rolls out birth control delivery in Ohio - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

New app rolls out birth control delivery in Ohio

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A new smartphone app is looking to target women in Ohio as the latest consumers of birth control on-the-go. 

NuRx, an app currently available for download for Apple phone users, just rolled out services in the Buckeye State. 

The technology aims to allow women to order birth control, emergency contraception, or PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) where access could be limited by distance, time, or money. 

The way it works: patients download the app, take a health survey, chat with licensed physicians, get a prescription, then the medication is shipped directly to your house. 

Patients can even indicate whether they have a particular preference for certain birth control methods. 

According to NuRx Medical Director, Dr. Jessica Knox, the information from the health survey is sent to licensed physicians and nurse practitioners who can review the information and select the best fit for birth control. 

Dr. Knox went on to say that the individual message feature allows medical staff to personalize care. 

For instance, teens who may be utilizing birth control for the first time may involve a more detailed conversation about concerns and make sure the medication is being taken properly. 
  
Dr. Knox mentioned that Ohio does not have any laws to restrict birth control access based on age. 

"So we can prescribe to teens basically," she said "People as young as twelve or thirteen years old without having parental consent. We'll give extra support and ask extra questions to those really young patients because we want to make sure that they're safe. That's always a concern where something is going on and this patient is being victimized."

The specialists who work for NuRx are even trained to assist in situations where they suspect a patient could be the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or rape. 

"Any time that we're even just concerned that there's just a hint of something going on, we don't even have to confirm it with the patient," said Dr. Knox. "If there's anything that makes us concerned we call authorities and get them involved because they can go to the patient's location and do the investigation and make sure the patient is safe. Fortunately, that's something we've only had to do a few times so far." 

Access to teens is particularly important according to Dr. Knox, who said that research has proven that offering birth control does not increase the risk that a teen will have sex. However, not having access to birth control can lead to worse problems. 

"We're trying to improve women's access to a medication that allows them to plan when they get pregnant," argued Dr. Knox. "So that if they're not ready to get pregnant because they want to finish college or they want to go after this dream job, or they want to travel they can make that decision as opposed to being a victim to their circumstances- they can choose their circumstances."

NuRx physicians are able to prescribe contraceptive care in several forms, including the pill, the patch, the ring, self-administered shots, emergency contraceptive, and PrEP. 

PrEP is a medication which is primarily used in HIV negative patients who wish to stay that way- a preemptive care practice. 

Dr. Knox also mentioned that should a patient experience an unwanted side-effect, or feel the need to switch medications, physicians can be reached through the app's messaging system and will generally respond within 24 hours with a suggestion. 

"We don't just write your prescription and disappear," assures Dr. Knox. "We do a lot of additional counseling. It can take a lot of trial and error to find a birth control that can work for a particular body because we all respond a little bit differently." 

However, concern has been raised over the fact that patients who use this service are missing out on some of the standard practices of a trip to the doctors- such as PAP smears, STD testing, and other exams. 

"We're definitely not trying to replace the primary care doctor or the OB/GYN. We are very upfront about that," said Dr. Knox. "We want people to continue doing their routine care." 

"But people I think often conflate the PAP smear and birth control relationship. And they think that you have to have one in order to get the other. And that's absolutely not true. It's a myth that's persisted way longer than it should."

Dr. Knox went on to say, "We're putting women at risk of an unwanted pregnancy because we're trying to force them into an annual PAP smear that isn't even medically necessary."

"The United States is one of the handful countries that still require a prescription for birth control. In most places you can get birth control over the counter," said Dr. Knox. "Those women still go see their doctors and their gynecologists when you know, the public health system tells them they should." 

For many patients whose insurance covers the cost of birth control normally the service is free. 

Patients are not charged for using the app, the medical advice, or for the delivery- only the cost of the medication normally. 

The app aims to help patients who otherwise wouldn't be able to get contraception. 

"You know in some places where it's purely geographical like, 'I am too far away from the doctors'," said Dr. Knox. "But then for others, it's also like there's not public health clinics." 

NuRx is currently available in 17 states, having just begun operations in Ohio on Tuesday. 

Since 2015 when the app launched it has begun serving patients in California, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and more. 

Dr. Knox said the response has been incredible, "It's very clear that women are just really excited to have a service that takes a task that has been at best an inconvenience, at worst actually disruptive to your ability to pay rent because you have to take hours off of your job."

"Even for states that we're not in, we get a lot of emails from women 'when are you coming', 'how can we help get you here'? People are really excited to have a better way to get this car," said Dr. Knox. 

More information about the app can be found by visiting their website: https://www.nurx.com/ 

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