DES MOINES, Iowa — Whether it’s through secure video appointments or through their "Planned Parenthood Direct" app, Planned Parenthood in Iowa has seen a huge increase in their online appointments during the pandemic.
The executive director of Planned Parenthood in Iowa, Erin Davison-Rippey, said they’ve quickly found ways to offer most services through telehealth.
"Sexual health care doesn’t stop during a pandemic," said Davison-Rippey. "People are still having sex. Iowans still need expert sexual reproductive health care.
Telehealth appointments offered by Planned Parenthood include consultations for sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs and STIs), as well as birth control prescriptions, transgender hormone therapy, and HIV prevention.
"We have seen more than a 250% increase in our online visits," said Davison-Rippey. "We know that we have the ability to innovate, to be nimble, and to make sure that we are meeting the needs in our community."
That might also be because they increased their online offerings in March, at a time when many Iowans might have started to struggle financially.
Dr. Katie Thompson, a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood West Health, in Urbandale, said patients have been taking advantage of the sliding fee scale at a time when they may no longer have insurance.
"I have had patients that have expressed that they have been laid off or have been furloughed and they no longer have access to their regular health insurance," Thompson said.
Dr. Thompson is now taking virtual appointments for the first time. She says most patients are excited to try it, and the convenience saves them time and a little money.
"It allows patients to do a quick appointment you know on their lunch break rather than having to travel to a clinic or find childcare and things like that," Dr. Thompson said.
While the clinic doors are still open for services like surgical abortions deemed essential by the physician, Planned Parenthood is continuing to work to adapt to the needs of a community now in crisis.
"People think of Planned Parenthood as a place to access care when they may not have other options," said Davison-Rippey. "We know that our services are critically needed especially during a time when folks need access to care in ways that they might not have in the past."
While Planned Parenthood does offer a sliding fee scale for patients paying out of pocket they also accept private insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid.