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Telemedicine for contraceptive counseling: An exploratory survey of US family planning providers following rapid adoption of services during the COVID-19 pandemic

      Abstract

      Objective

      During the COVID-19 pandemic, many clinicians started offering telemedicine services. The objective of this study is to describe the experience of US family planning providers with the rapid adoption of telemedicine for contraceptive counseling during this period.

      Study design

      This is a cross-sectional web-based survey of family planning providers practicing in the United States.

      Results

      A total of 172 providers completed the survey (34% response rate). Of these, 156 (91%) provided telemedicine services in the 2 months preceding the survey. Most (78%) were new to telemedicine. About half (54%) referred less than a quarter of contraception patients for in-person visits, and 53% stated that the most common referral reason was long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) insertion. A majority of providers strongly agree that telemedicine visits are an effective way to provide contraceptive counseling (80%), and that this service should be expanded after the pandemic (84%). If asked to provide telemedicine visits after the pandemic, 64% of providers would be very happy about it. Many providers used personal phones or smartphones to conduct telemedicine visits but stated that ideal devices would be work-issued computers, tablets, or phones. More than half (59%) of providers prefer video over phone visits.

      Conclusions

      Family planning clinicians in the United States reported a positive experience with telemedicine for contraceptive counseling during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic and believe that this service should be expanded. Clinicians seem to prefer using work-issued devices and conducting video rather than phone visits.

      Implications

      Telemedicine is a promising option for providing contraceptive counseling even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. An investment in hospital or clinic-issued devices that allow for video conferencing may optimize clinicians’ telemedicine experience.

      Keywords

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