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Integrating mifepristone into primary care in Canada's capital: A multi-methods exploration of the Medical Abortion Access Project

      Abstract

      Objectives

      Following the 2017 introduction of mifepristone in Canada and both ensuing regulatory changes and increased demand for medication abortion care, Planned Parenthood Ottawa created the Medical Abortion Access Project (MAAP). This study aimed to document outcomes, identify facilitators and barriers, and distill learnings from an initiative that sought to recruit and support primary care clinicians in providing mifepristone/misoprostol in Canada's capital.

      Study design

      We employed a multi-methods evaluation strategy that included reviewing MAAP-related documents, evaluating the project log, and conducting in-depth interviews with clinicians at 5 sites. In the final analytic phase, we integrated the findings from the different evaluation components.

      Results

      From May 2017 through July 2018, the MAAP helped 14 primary care facilities in Ottawa become medication abortion providers; 9 began providing mifepristone/misoprostol to existing patients and 5 began offering mifepristone/misoprostol to the public. The program recruited 4 new pharmacies to stock the combination package and trained 2 sonography clinics in abortion-related protocols. Program participants identified patient demand as a key driver of medication abortion provision but required information and logistical support from the MAAP to operationalize service delivery. New abortion providers reflected positively on the community of practice that the MAAP created, which enabled them to offer and receive technical and emotional support from colleagues across the city.

      Conclusions

      A number of primary care clinicians in Ottawa were able to successfully integrate medication abortion care into their practices with MAAP support. Future research should explore whether this type of community-based intervention can be replicated in other settings.

      Implications

      Evidence-based regulation of mifepristone by health authorities is a critical step to increasing access to medication abortion care. However, deregulation alone was insufficient to integrate medication abortion services into primary care in Ottawa. Community-based programs like the MAAP can help providers make sense of shifting regulations and practice guidelines, overcome logistical barriers, and ultimately increase access to this medically necessary service. Establishing and facilitating communities of practice is especially important for new primary care providers.

      Keywords

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