mHEALTHINTELLIGENCE: CA Lawmaker Pushes to Improve Birth Control Access Through Telehealth

Excerpted from mHealthIntelligence

By Eric Wicklund

A California lawmaker is hoping that replacing one word in the state’s telehealth law will enable residents to get birth control pills through an mHealth app or telehealth service.

AB 1264, submitted by State Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) earlier this year, replaces the word “it” with “the licensee” in defining the Business and Professions Code regarding the use of telehealth or prescribe, dispense or furnish so-called “dangerous drugs.”

That change, if approved and signed into law, would eliminate the need for a “synchronous interaction between the patient and the licensee” before such drugs are dispensed. It would thus enable healthcare providers to prescribe drugs via an asynchronous (store-and-forward) telehealth platform, without the need for a video consult, as long as the provider “complies with the appropriate standard of care.”

According to Petrie-Norris, this amendment of a “vague telehealth law” would give California residents a less burdensome way to get birth control.

“Today, in order to request birth control by way of telehealth, a patient must answer a health questionnaire, self-report their blood pressure and schedule a video chat before submitting their request for contraceptives,” a press release from the legislator’s office, issued earlier this month, states.  “Doctors find that a teleconference visit to access birth control is medically unnecessary. Furthermore, it is estimated that 50 percent of patients do not fulfill this specification and therefore cannot receive contraception. This bill clarifies the ability for birth control to be prescribed via teleconference without a ‘visit’ or video chat in order to expand access and address the unmet needs for birth control in California.”

“Birth control allows people to choose if and when to start a family and historically has afforded women more economic freedom,” Petrie-Norris said. “It is paramount that women have access to the resources necessary to carefully plan a family as they see fit.”

The bill, which passed by a 35-2 vote in the state Senate and is now headed to the Assembly, is co-sponsored by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and supported by the California Medical Association and NARAL Pro-Choice California.