Ordering birth control via mobile app — helpful or harmful?

A Canfield doctor is concerned women will miss other health screenings women if they order birth control on the Nurx app

birth control generic

CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – An app that allows women to order birth control right from their phones just became legal in Ohio two weeks ago and has been available in Pennsylvania for six months. However, one local doctor is saying not so fast.

Nurx is part of a growing field called telemedicine, where doctors diagnose and prescribe online.

The process is all done through the app — pick a brand of birth control, fill out a questionnaire and send a photo ID and an insurance card. A licensed doctor then goes over the application and if it’s approved, the pills are sent out.

A Canfield doctor doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

“I just don’t see how this is helping anybody other than somebody is making money on it,” Dr. Denise Bobovnyik said.

Nurx has produced an ad featuring a woman on the go.

“I guess if you’re really busy and you just can’t make your GYN appointment, and you’re just going to go online and you’re going to renew your birth control pills and it’s a one-time thing, this is a great convenience,” Bobovnyik said.

Her concern is the other health screenings women will miss if they order birth control online.

“How are you getting your PAP tests and your HPV tests and your HPV vaccines?”

Maryam Fikri, with Nurx, said that’s a common myth.

“You don’t need to be physically examined to get prescribed birth control.”

One of Nurx’s providers, Dr. Jess Horwitz, M.D., said these procedures are important but there’s a better approach.

We encourage all of the women who access birth control through Nurx to receive recommended HPV and cervical cancer screenings and any other healthcare maintenance necessary for their overall health. We just feel strongly that holding a women’s birth control hostage to encourage her to complete a pap smear is not only wrong but also not an effective health promotion strategy. Our goal is to improve access to healthcare in a way that reduces barriers and allows people to take control of their health while upholding the highest standards of clinical excellence. We can actually do both: reduce the barriers for access to birth control and also encourage women to engage in important health screenings with their care provider. They do not need to be held hostage by each other.”

In its promotional material, Nurx provided graphics showing that Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana counties are all contraceptive deserts — meaning there are not enough public clinics to meet contraceptive needs. Mercer County is not a contraceptive desert.

“There are a number of counties in Ohio that don’t have enough clinics to fulfill the demands of women that want to be on birth control,” Fikri said.

Bobovnyik still says it’s a bad idea.

“To me, the women that would be doing this would be the exact women you wouldn’t want to do this. Maybe poor women who don’t have access to health care.”

Nurx does have a screening process. Women must fill out a questionnaire, which is then approved by a licensed physician in their state — but not one that’s necessarily located in their state.

“There are certain questions that we would need to ask during the health survey. Our providers really look through each patient’s survey and they see, and they pretty much get a full view of what individuals’ health risk would be,” Fikri said.

Bobovnyik did say being able to buy birth control online would be beneficial for people involved in human trafficking because they would be able to buy birth control without being asked a lot of questions.


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