West Texans will now be able to access certain forms of birth control (pills, the patch and the ring) and treatment for urinary tract infections (UTIs) via mobile device. Patients can make a request anytime using the Planned Parenthood Direct app, with no appointment required, to get the same birth control and treatment for UTIs available at Planned Parenthood health centers.

A press release from Planned Parenthood said the app is active in 27 states, and is proving popular among busy working mothers, young professionals, college students and Texans in rural parts of the state with limited healthcare access.

One-in-five American women turns to Planned Parenthood for healthcare in her lifetime, making Planned Parenthood a trusted source for reproductive healthcare across the U.S., the release said. After defunding by the Texas Legislature in 2011, more than 75 family planning clinics in Texas closed, including Planned Parenthood health centers. Reduced access to family planning health centers and high uninsured rates in Texas, created barriers to healthcare for some West Texas communities, the release said.

San Angelo is 200 miles from the closest Planned Parenthood health center, located in Austin. Through the app, patients can receive birth control and UTI treatment - important resources for women seeking healthcare.

According to the release, in Tom Green County, approximately 16% of residents under 65 are uninsured. For women seeking birth control and treatment for UTIs, lack of insurance can create a barrier or delay in accessing healthcare. Nearly half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended with the highest unintended pregnancy rates among low-income women.

Planned Parenthood Direct is a new resource that expands access to birth control for women seeking to plan and space their pregnancies.

“Through telemedicine, Planned Parenthood is expanding access to healthcare for Texans seeking birth control and treatment for urinary tract infections. Texans in any county can access Planned Parenthood Direct for high-quality healthcare they would receive during an in-person appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center,” Sarah Wheat, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas spokeswoman, said in the release.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas is launching an awareness campaign about Planned Parenthood Direct, with billboards in West Texas cities, including San Angelo, along with digital and social media campaigns.

Planned Parenthood Direct, can be downloaded for free in Android and iPhone app stores. Patients answer questions related to their healthcare need (birth control or UTI) and upload required information securely through the app for review by Planned Parenthood clinician. Birth control pills can be delivered to patient homes or a local pharmacy, while ring and patch birth control are available by pharmacy pick up only. App users can renew birth control for up to one year, and also make appointments at the closest Planned Parenthood health center for additional reproductive healthcare.

Patients must be 18 years of age or older, and provide a Texas driver’s license, official Texas ID, or a passport.

Patients who pick-up prescriptions at a pharmacy may use insurance coverage. Birth control pills delivered by mail cannot be covered by insurance at this time when using Planned Parenthood Direct.

The Planned Parenthood Direct process takes about 10 minutes, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Patients can pay with credit, debit, or prepaid card.

 Expanding access to healthcare (statement from Planned Parenthood):

"As state politicians have created barriers to reproductive healthcare in Texas, Planned Parenthood is focused on expanding access to healthcare. This includes opening new health centers, expanding healthcare services, and offering digital products to connect Texans with quality healthcare and health education. Planned Parenthood Direct offers the Spot On period tracking app, chat/text support, and 24/7 online health center appointments."

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas provided essential reproductive healthcare through nearly 124,000 patient visits in Austin, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Worth, Paris, Tyler, Waco and surrounding communities in 2018.

Appointments are available at ppgreatertx.org or 800-230-PLAN. Most major insurance is accepted.