Along with ordering your laundry, your lunch, your groceries, your ride, your booze, your weed, and your butler, you can now order an STD test with a few swipes on your smartphone. This week, Planned Parenthood joined the mobile delivery market with a new app for on-demand chlamydia and gonorrhea testing, available to users in California.
It works like this: You download the app, called Planned Parenthood Direct, to your phone (it's available for both Android and iPhone, because STDs don't discriminate). Then you create a profile with Planned Parenthood, enter your shipping address and payment information, and order the test within a few clicks. The test gets delivered to your doorstep in two to four days in discreet packaging. Then you pee into the provided cup, send it back to Planned Parenthood, and wait for the results to come through on the app.
If you test negative, then you're good to go. If you test positive, Planned Parenthood directs you to the appropriate treatment. For chlamydia, they send a prescription for an oral antibiotic to your local pharmacy. For gonorrhea, they schedule a time for you to get an antibiotic injection. The service, including the treatment, comes out to a flat fee of $149.
In Planned Parenthood's 100-year history, this is the first time the organization has integrated mobile technology into the way it provides healthcare. "Our goal is to try to reach people through whatever means they're most comfortable, and it's clear that a lot of industries, including healthcare, are moving into mobile applications and online applications [to reach people]," said Jon Dunn, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties. "This is the first step in Planned Parenthood providing mobile services."
The app was designed with millennials in mind—a demographic that's both bad at getting STD check-ups and already accustomed to ordering everything with a few swipes in an app.
"We believe that there's a market for young professionals, primarily because of the privacy and convenience," says Ana Sandoval, the Communications Director for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, the statewide public policy office for the seven planned parenthood affiliates in the state. Their target user is someone young, with a busy lifestyle, who might not otherwise get tested on the reg.
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This isn't the first service to offer at-home STD tests. There are a variety of mail-order STD tests, like SDT Test Express, which offers a chlamydia and gonorrhea test for the same price as Planned Parenthood Direct. But Planned Parenthood Direct is the first to offer the service through a mobile app, and to provide treatment. "Those other tests are just tests," Sandoval points out. "If you do test positive [with Planned Parenthood Direct], you can get treatment and a prescription, emailed to your local pharmacy."
It's worth noting that Planned Parenthood offers a sliding-scale for its in-clinic STD tests, meaning if you go into one of their health centers, you can get the same tests done for a reduced rate (for people with limited income, they're often free). Some health insurance companies also cover preventative STD testing. But Dunn points out that the purpose of Planned Parenthood Direct is to reach people who wouldn't otherwise show up in a Planned Parenthood Clinic. As he explains it, the app is offering a "premium service"—privacy and convenience—for an out-of-pocket fee.
In California, where the app is piloting, chlamydia and gonorrhea are both relatively common. In 2013, the most recent year that statewide data is available, there were over 38,000 cases of gonorrhea and nearly 168,000 cases of chlamydia. Those rates are highest among people aged 15 to 24 (women in that age group accounted for 66 percent of all female chlamydia cases, and 54 percent of female gonorrhea cases). You know what else people aged 15 and 24 have in common? Almost all of them own smart phones.
"Our hope was to reach people through a convenient test that would alert them to the fact that they might be positive and get them easy treatment," said Dunn.
In the near future, Planned Parenthood hopes to launch the app nationwide. The organization is concurrently testing a complementary app called Planned Parenthood Care, available in Washington and Minnesota, which "allows people to talk to a Planned Parenthood provider online and face-to-face through a secure video consultation system, and then receive birth control or an STD test kit and treatment, if necessary, in the mail." There are also plans to broaden the scope of services offered on their mobile apps—things like emergency contraception, which are "in the early planning stages right now." Which means that one day, there will be nothing you can't do on your phone.
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