If you are considering birth control or are already using it, getting to the doctor’s office may be a challenge during the coronavirus pandemic. Telemedicine is a great way to limit your risk but still keep up with your health care.
What Is Telemedicine?
Also called telehealth or e-health, telemedicine lets people interact with their doctors and their offices using a computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can:
Meet with your doctor or other members of your health care team by video chat or phone just as you would for an in-person appointment.
Use an online patient portal to:
- Schedule appointments.
- See test results.
- Request birth control refills.
- Email your doctor with questions.
Get email or text reminders when you have appointments or need to refill medications.
There are also online services that can deliver birth control to your home after a virtual visit with a doctor, or after filling out a health survey. Many offer free shipping and will work with your insurance plan.
When to Use Telemedicine
Telehealth can be a good way to:
- Discuss the types of birth control that you can get and which might be the best fit.
- Get a prescription for some types of birth control, such as pills, the hormone patch, or the vaginal ring.
- Get a refill for the birth control prescription you're already using.
- Talk to your doctor about switching to another type of birth control.
After your telehealth appointment, your doctor can send the prescription to your pharmacy or to a mail-order pharmacy, so it comes right to your home.
When Telemedicine Isn’t the Right Answer
If you want to use a long-acting birth control method like an intrauterine device (IUD) or implant, of if you already use one, you’ll have to go into the office so your doctor can see you.
An IUD is a small T-shaped device inserted into the uterus that keeps sperm from fertilizing the egg. Depending on the type, it can work for 3 to 10 years.
An implant is a small thin rod inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm that releases the hormone progestin to help prevent ovulation. It works for up to 3 years.
If you have certain conditions, like breast cancer or a history of stroke, your doctor might ask you to come into the office for screening tests before they prescribe birth control for you.
States have the same limits on birth control through telemedicine as they do in person. For example, if they don’t allow people under 18 to get birth control in person, the same rule applies to telehealth.
How You Can Prepare
Here are some tips to get the most out of your telemedicine visit:
Make sure your technology is working. Check the camera and sound on your computer, phone, or tablet. Charge your device or plug it in.
Find a quiet, well-lit place, and ask people in your home not to interrupt you. To ensure good call quality, use a spot where your Wi-Fi is strong or where you have good cellphone service.
Check with your insurance to make sure telehealth visits are covered. If they are, ask if your copay will be the same. If they aren’t, call your doctor’s office to see what your cost would be.
Have questions and notes ready. Write down any you have before your appointment, just as you would for an in-person checkup. Are you having any side effects from your current birth control? Have you had any health changes since you last talked to your doctor?
Be ready to take notes. You'll want to write down any comments from your doctor. If you have questions later, you can ask them in the patient portal. Your doctor might also add notes about your visit to the portal.