Iowa telemedicine program deemed effective for abortion services

Extends women's health services to remote areas

A four-year-old Iowa telemedicine program aimed at improving a woman's access to medical abortions has shown to actually reduce the number of surgical abortions throughout the state.

According to a study, published in the November issue of American Journal of Public Health and conducted by researchers at the Oakland, Calif.-based Ibis Reproductive Health, the University of California at San Francisco, Planned Parenthood and the University of Texas in Austin, the Heartland, Iowa-based telemedicine program also improved a woman's access to these medical services across the state.

After the telemedicine clinic was established, medical services to women living in more remote areas were improved, and medical abortions increased by 8 percent.

Study findings show that although overall early abortion encounters increased by 1.7 percent as a result of expanding the services to more rural parts of the state (particularly for women living more than 50 miles from a surgical abortion clinic), surgical abortions after 13 weeks decreased by a significant 7 percent.

In 2008, the year of its inception, the telemedicine clinic provided some 74 percent of all abortions in Iowa. Citing a recently published cohort study, researchers say the telemedicine program was "equally effective compared to a model involving an in-person visit with a physician," and also came with a low rate of adverse events.