Access to reproductive and sexual healthcare is facing a critical challenge in Ohio. As recent legislation limiting access to reproductive healthcare has passed, many Ohioans are apprehensive of the stricter laws. In order to bridge that widening gap, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, or PPGOH, has decided to expand its telehealth services by 300% by the end of 2023.
PGOH offers various services through telehealth, including gender-affirming care, birth control, HIV services, emergency contraception, STD testing, treatment and vaccines, transgender hormone therapy and women's health care across its 17 health centers.
PPGOH's telehealth services began at the start of the pandemic to provide treatment and care to patients in a safe way.
Adarsh Krishen, the Chief Medical Officer at PPGOH, said that many patients have to travel great distances to access care, but sometimes their needs can be addressed via telephone.
"The initial foray into telehealth was months, just months in the planning because it was sort of a very quick initial pivot during the beginning of Covid," Krishen said.
PPGOH went through three phases to develop its telehealth model.
"Phase one was the registration person and the clinician you were seeing were physically in the health center," Krishen said. "You as the patient did not have to be in the health center. This model was used for a long time."
Soon, phase two began, which entailed moving healthcare providers out of the office to any location of their convenience during the height of COVID-19 restrictions. Krishen added that phase three now overlooks extending telehealth hours beyond regular office hours.
"Our next phase in this is to look at how do we provide that care after standard business hours or outside the standard business hours," he said.
According to PPGOH's annual fiscal year report for 2022, it had 4,195 telehealth visits, which accounts for 5.59% of all visits from 45,100 patients.
Patients' approaches to seeking healthcare today have changed. Kishen added that telehealth removes the extra burden of arranging transportation for issues that can be resolved virtually, saving students and working professionals time.
"One of our goals is to make sure we have more same-day appointments as part of the expansion so we've always had same-day appointments, but we've discovered that telehealth in particular lends itself very well to same-day appointments," Krishen said.
Krishen pointed out that one of the restrictions to telehealth care is that patients seeking care must be physically present in Ohio. However, out-of-state students on their parents' insurance can still seek care even if they are not a resident of Ohio but are attending college in Ohio.
"PPGOH doubled the number of telehealth appointments available to patients from June to July, and moving forward, plans to expand even further, essentially tripling the number of appointments available," Hannah Gavin from West End Strategy Team, communicating on behalf of PPGOH, said. "This is all with the intention of making care more accessible to patients,"
Despite its limits, Ohio residents will now have access to necessary healthcare services from the comfort and safety of their own homes.