Diagnose and Treat STDs — From the Comfort of Home


Planned Parenthood is launching an app that allows STD diagnosis without stepping foot in an office. (Photo: Getty Images)

When you suspect you have an STD, the thought of approaching your physician for an awkward conversation about getting tested makes most folks cringe. In fact, embarrassment about the need for testing is a significant barrier for many young people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But thanks to our smart phones, STD diagnosis is getting easier, more discreet — and less awkward.

On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood is launching a new app that gives California women the ability to receive STD testing with just a few taps on their phone screens (and a quick pee in a cup).The Planned Parenthood Direct app is available through both the Android and Apple app stores. Once downloaded, California residents can order a kit to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. The test kit arrives in discreet packaging and with simple instructions on how to collect a urine sample using the provided materials and mail it back to Planned Parenthood labs.

Users are then notified of their results through the app to further ensure privacy — and effective treatment. Those who test positive for chlamydia can have a prescription for antibiotics sent to the pharmacy of their choice through the app, and those who test positive for gonorrhea can schedule an appointment to visit a Planned Parenthood health center to receive an antibiotic shot.

“It starts with Planned Parenthood recognizing that online health services are one of the most successful and fastest growing health trends to increase and improve access and convenience to care,” Jill Balderson, vice president of health innovation at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, tells Yahoo Health. “STD [sexually transmitted disease] testing is one of our core services at Planned Parenthood. Now we can increase access to those who might not want to spend the time and come into a health center [for testing] and for those who may not live close to a health center.”

Balderson notes that Planned Parenthood is looking to expand its offerings soon — both in disease tests and states in which the app can be used — but is launching the service with gonorrhea and chlamydia testing since those two STDs are “easy to treat and easy to test.” Also, both are often symptomless but can have devastating long-term consequences if left untreated. She says the group is offering the pilot program in California first because the state has “a large population that we hope to engage and reach” as well as “progressive telehealth laws.”

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Planned Parenthood is running an additional pilot program in Minnesota and Washington state through an app that offers video visits with a nurse practitioner for birth control consultations and prescriptions, as well as STD testing.

Technology “increases reach and access,” says Balderson. “Many people today — not just young people — carry their mobile phones with them at all times and use them to access a variety of information. [The new mobile app] allows Planned Parenthood to be easily at reach for many people. Technology makes care instantly accessible but also tailored and personalized to the needs of that person at that moment.”

And since telehealth laws very by state, the geotagging data made available through an app download allows the organization to provide individuals with compliant telehealth experiences for their respective states.

“We are committed to finding innovative ways to serve patients efficiently,” notes Balderson, “This shouldn’t be the last story on Planned Parenthood online health services. We will continue to grow and expand with it.”

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