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Planned Parenthood expands to telehealth, curbside services to come

They're changing and adapting, just like all of us during this pandemic.

MINNEAPOLIS — When the Coronavirus pandemic asked a lot of us to change what we were doing, Sarah Stoesz, the CEO and president of Planned Parenthood North Central States, said her organization was up for the challenge.

"We were born into controversy and crisis," Stoesz said. "Our organization has lived that way for over 100 years. Over 100 years, we have developed a lot of muscle that allows us to quickly adapt and to iterate."

Stoesz doesn't deny that some of their services cannot be delivered virtually.

"There will always be a need for clinicians to lay a hand on a patient and provide care that way," Stoesz said. "That will never go away of course now, because of all the rapid innovation that we've been able to do as a result of COVID-19, there are now permanent changes that we have made in the way that we are delivering care."

Innovations include fully embracing telehealth or video conferences for clinicians and patients.

"It's not something that is a new concept but in prior days, before the current era that we are living in, we would have come up with an idea, we would have thought it through and sketched it out, with models and forecasts, tested and piloted and it would have taken us a long time to get comfortable to roll it out," Stoesz said. 

Now, driven by necessity, they're seeing patients with a relatively new technology if they can. 

She said it's especially convenient for folks who are wanting to start a brand new birth control regimen and need a simple consult with a clinician before receiving a prescription.

To add to the convenience, Stoesz said they are just days away from rolling out curbside pick-up for whatever medication patients may need.

"People can come to the clinic, just pull up to the door and we can come out and in a safe way hand them their birth control," Stoesz said. "Or whatever it is that they need. So they don't have to come out at all."

Lastly, the national Planned Parenthood organization introduced a sexual-health chatbot named Roo, last year. Although Roo was designed to answer the questions of curious albeit sheepish teens, Stoesz emphasized it can come in handy for teens now, especially if they are stuck at home where privacy might be short.

"You're able to do it completely anonymously and get really good science-based, medically accurate information back," Stoesz said. "So it's a big comfort to teenagers to have Roo to turn to. We're very proud to be able to offer this to them."

Stoesz explained that some services like cancer screenings have been put on pause during this time. However, people can seek telehealth services by connecting with a clinician via the Planned Parenthood Direct app, or by calling patients services at 800-230-PLAN. 

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