On this week’s The Sci-Files, your hosts Chelsie and Danny interview Lauren Jernstadt. When Lauren is not working as an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where she studies single molecule biology using fluorescent laser tweezers, Lauren is discussing with her former Bioethics Capstone instructor Kathleen Lowenstein a very different topic: the ethical implications of telehealth, specifically services that provide contraception.
Telecontraceptive services work to provide users with a more affordable and convenient means of procuring prescriptions for birth control. Instead of waiting months for an in-person doctor’s visit that can cost hundreds of dollars without insurance, telecontraceptive services immediately provide users with a medical questionnaire to screen for potential contra indicators (medical conditions that can counteract or mitigate the effects of certain hormonal treatments such as heart conditions of recent pregnancy) and summarize their health history. Within days, a virtual patient care team contacts the user to overview their medical history and prescribe the user with a method suitable for their health and needs, and for users who do not utilize insurance, telecontraceptive services provide a wide array of competitively priced methods. Users do not even leave their houses to pick up their prescriptions as these services mail it to their front door. Due to their combined convenience and affordability, telecontraception was a popular form of telehealth service even before their rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lauren’s research on telecontraception focuses more specifically on the trade-offs between telecontraception’s benefits against the drawbacks that come with a lack of physical patient-physician interactions, looking more closely at the impact on screening procedures and long-term health outcomes. It is recommended that women visit their OB/GYN on a regular basis for screening procedures such as breast exams and Pap smear tests, screenings that should be performed by a trained medical professional rather than at home. Telecontraceptive services sometimes offer at-home screening options for STDs and HPV, but the accuracy of at-home tests can vary. Lauren’s work seeks to find the balance between the convenience of telecontraceptive services and the continued need for physical patient-doctor interactions, a balance that is critical in a world where it is necessary to understand when in-person interactions are needed for maintaining proper health.
Here is a list containing all the different telecontraceptive services in the world and their availability.
If you’re interested in talking about your MSU research on the radio or nominating a student, please email Chelsie and Danny at [email protected] You can ask questions about future episodes here. Check The Sci-Files out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!