Category Archives: Telehealth and Telemedicine

Can you get Birth Control Pills without leaving your house?

Image result for birth control pills

Image from NBC News

Isabel Draper

Many women are familiar with the difficulties of obtaining birth control. Making an appointment, going to the doctor’s office, making sure that your option is covered by insurance, and then going to the pharmacy are some of the many steps involved. Now companies are attempting to make it easier for women seeking birth control to obtain it online. Sometimes the banners appear on Instagram and Facebook. But, is their promise of easily obtained, inexpensive birth control a good idea? 

Accessing birth control online could be particularly helpful for people with limited access to physicians either due to geographic or financial concerns. There are 19 million women in the United States who live in a county which lacks a single clinic with a wide range of contraception options. Online birth control services could resolve this geographic access problem. Many of the services also offer a low cost option for those who are uninsured. However, even spending fifteen dollars a month on birth control could be a prohibitive cost to low-income women. 

The most effective, long-term, less costly forms of birth control like the IUD and the estrogen implant are not available online. While several of the sites include information about the IUD or implant options, they do not help people gain access to these options.  

The potential lack of education when receiving these health services online is an important drawback of these services. Some sites rely on an online questionnaire while others require that the patient speak to a physician over video or telephone. These services generally rely on the patient’s awareness of their own risk factors like high blood pressure or a family history of breast cancer. They also lack the face to face contact which can lead to important health screenings like pap smears. 

While accessing birth control online is an important step in reducing the barriers which some women may face to obtaining birth control, it’s not clear that these services can completely replace quality in-person care.

Medication advertising on social media

Image result for social media ad

Image from Marketing Land

Vandana Dubakula

The iconic golden arches tend to prompt images of burgers and French fries. A similar thing occurs at the sight of medication advertisements. While a Prozac ad does not trigger a craving, it does serve to identify and educate the consumer about the medication. Social media is currently one of the best methods to advertise products, but with medications, there are benefits and drawbacks.

 Advertising medications on social media makes it more accessible for consumers to gather information about a product. Rather than having to wait weeks to consult with a physician, which is time-consuming, people can immediately learn about the advertised drug. Additionally, even if the patient understood the medication superficially, the knowledge they gain from advertisements can be brought to a physician’s attention. The doctor could more meticulously explain the pros and cons of the medication which makes the appointment more efficient.

However, along with this ease in acquiring information brought on by social media advertisements, there is the disadvantage of possible public harm due to misinformation. Advertisements may cite inappropriate or biased reports to support their promotional claims, leading individuals to make inaccurate conclusions about the medication’s benefits. Additionally, social media ads may also cause danger by spurring high demand for unnecessary treatment. Patients may believe that they have the condition as a result of seeing numerous advertisements.

While advertisements on social media allow individuals to learn more about medications, there are downsides for this type of marketing. It is important to do in-depth research or consult a medical professional when deciding to take a medication that was advertised on social media.

As social media ‘influencers,’ patients are getting a voice. And pharma is ready to pay up