These 7 online clinics are revolutionizing women’s sexual healthcare
Getting a birth control prescription can be a headache and a half — but it doesn’t have to be. A growing number of apps and websites make it possible to receive prescription contraceptives, and even STI testing, without going to the doctor or pharmacy. Online healthcare services, or telemedicine companies, are changing the game when it comes to women’s sexual and reproductive health by making it easier, faster, and more affordable to receive care.
Not only are there services providing birth control and emergency contraception like Nurx, PRJKT RUBY, and The Pill Club, but also online clinics such as Lemonaid and Virtuwell that offer at-home STI testing/diagnoses and prescriptions for conditions such as urinary tract infections and yeast infections. Usually getting a prescription requires seeing a primary care physician or gynecologist, which means taking time off work and waiting for an appointment. By offering on-demand consultations and prescriptions delivered to your door, these services save time and money, especially for people without health insurance.
As accessible and affordable women’s sexual and reproductive healthcare continues to be hindered by conservative legislation, online companies have become a necessary resource. While publicly funded programs, such as the Obama administration’s requirement under the Affordable Care Act that health plans cover the cost of prescription birth control, are often met with political and religious opposition, private online services deal with far less pushback. They do not require legislative approval, as prescriptions are still provided by clinicians. These companies must follow telemedicine regulations, which vary by state, and can only prescribe in states where their clinicians are licensed. This means that there is no company yet that can serve every state, but there are enough services popping up that women in most states can now access at least one.
Most services operate fairly similarly: clients fill out an online questionnaire about their needs and medical history, which is then reviewed by a physician who submits the prescription to a pharmacy. Some state laws require a video consultation as well, which some services provide. The medication is then delivered to your door. Testing services also require a questionnaire, and then send a kit to your address, which you complete and then mail back in order to receive results. Some services accept insurance, and most offer low prices for those without.
For example, Nurx charges as low as $15 for the pill, with no prescription fee and free shipping. In comparison, a doctor’s visit can cost between $35 and $250, according to Planned Parenthood. Each company has different policies regarding the minimum age they prescribe to — Nurx follows state regulations, meaning they can prescribe to people in some states as young as 12, while PRJKT RUBY’s minimum age is a state’s age of consent for sexual activity, which ranges from 16 to 18, and Lemonaid and Virtuwell’s minimum age is 18.
The convenience, privacy, and accessibility (especially for people living in rural areas) offered by these services has the potential to encourage more people to start using contraception and get tested, and therefore drastically decrease high rates of unintended pregnancies, abortions, and STIs. One thing to keep in mind: some medical experts advise against getting a prescription without an in-person consultation, so these options are probably better if you already know which type of birth control works for you and just need a refill.
If you need help figuring out which service is best for you, check out this quick breakdown:
Services: birth control pills, the ring, the patch, and emergency contraception
Cost for a new prescription: free
Cost for birth control: $0 with insurance, as low as $15 a month without
Cost for emergency contraception: $0 with insurance, $25-$68 without
Availability: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington
2. PRJKT RUBY
Services: birth control pills, emergency contraception
Cost for a new prescription: free
Cost for birth control: $20 a month
Cost for emergency contraception: $25-67 per packet
Availability: most U.S. states, except North Carolina
3. The Pill Club
Services: birth control pills, the patch, the ring, or emergency contraception
Cost for a new prescription: free with insurance, $15 without
Cost for birth control: $0 with insurance, as low as $5 a month without
Cost for emergency contraception: free with most insurance
Availability: ships to most U.S. states, except Louisiana and South Carolina, and prescribes in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington
Services: birth control pills, the ring, the patch, STD testing, UTI treatment
Cost for a new prescription: $25
Cost for birth control: $15 for up to 3 months of pills
Cost for STD test: $53.16
Cost for UTI treatment: $4-60
Availability: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin
Services: birth control pills, emergency contraception, treatment for UTI, yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, breast infection, clogged duct, genital herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis
Cost: $49 per visit, less with insurance
Availability: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin
Services: birth control pills, UTI treatment, pregnancy testing, and HIV testing
Cost for birth control: $15
Cost for UTI treatment: $25
Cost for pregnancy test: $15
Cost for HIV test: $35
Services: birth control prescriptions, treatment for UTI, yeast infection
Cost: $35 for a 10-minute appointment with a physician
8. myLAB Box
Services: at-home testing for yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, HIV, hepatitis C, genital herpes, syphilis, mycoplasmagenitalium, and HPV
Cost: starting at $79