While the coronavirus pandemic closed businesses and ordered social distancing across the country, the desire for birth control access has evidently persisted. Since the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., Simple Health has seen a more than 200% spike in new patients.
We talked to the CEO of Simple Health, Carrie Siu Butt, about the future of birth control and reproductive health in light of the COVID-19 era.
Mama Glow: You are the CEO of Simple Health – can you explain why Simple Health was founded and how it assists folks across the reproductive health continuum?
At Simple Health, our goal is to make healthcare more affordable and convenient. Visiting a doctor’s office for chronic care needs, like birth control, is often medically unnecessary and cost prohibitive, especially for routine prescription renewals. We’re changing that by providing an online birth control service that is simple, convenient and affordable. A doctor licensed in your state reviews your medical history and preferences and then writes a prescription that best suits your needs. We then ship your birth control right to your door (for free), and make sure you never run out of refills – saving you time and money, regardless of your insurance status.
Simple Health increases pharmaceutical adherence. At Simple Health, we ship your prescription right to your door and make sure you never lapse on your medication. This prevents a lot of unnecessary side-effects and risk, and means customers can focus on more important things than how they’ll get their next birth control refill. Simple Health reduces interpersonal barriers to acquiring birth control. Too many people feel shame or experience judgment from their doctors or pharmacists when they talk about birth control, and this causes many to avoid the situation altogether. Telemedicine lets patients get past these friction points in a safe, judgment-free and supportive environment.
We belive in providing better, more comprehensive birth control solutions. For many, their prescribing doctor is a general practitioner who may not be aware of all of the different birth control options that are available. Our comprehensive consultation allows our licensed doctors to identify a medication that best fits a patient’s individual needs. We also make sure we get it right – checking back in with our patients, and adjusting their prescription for no additional cost if we need to find a better solution for their body. Going to a doctor takes time, but getting a prescription online is easy, and something you can do from anywhere. For people with insurance, a doctor’s visit co-pay is usually higher than our consultation fee, and for people without insurance, our fee is significantly cheaper than an out-of-pocket office visit.
There’s been a huge spike in customers purchasing birth control online during this era of social distancing. Why do you believe this is?
The coronavirus pandemic is radically reshaping how people access birth control. Online birth control providers have seen an explosion in new patients since the coronavirus pandemic and mitigation efforts in the US began. We’ve seen a massive influx in new patients – more than doubling our patient base since February 2020.
But make no mistake, the pandemic accelerated a trend that was already disrupting the market. Simple Health and other online birth control providers make personalized birth control affordable and convenient, even if you don’t have insurance, saving both time and money.
A number of flaws in our current health care model are being exposed by the pandemic. What flaws are you seeing come to light when it comes from birth control, and how can those harmful trends get shifted?
A wide range of factors – social, political and economic – make affordable, personalized birth control out of reach for too many people, but the biggest problem is a lack of access.
In a traditional model, you have to find and secure an appointment with a doctor or a specialist, travel to and from that visit, pay the co-pay or out of pocket expenses, and go back to that doctor for a renewal. Even with insurance, this is expensive and time consuming. Without insurance, the costs may be completely prohibitive. In a time where people are being asked to stay home and millions are getting hit financially, these issues become even larger barriers.
How do you believe changes taking place during the pandemic will change the future of reproductive health care beyond COVID-19?
As more and more people who need birth control move to online providers, they’re unlikely to go back to the old model after the pandemic. Once the barriers to access have been broken down, patients won’t want or need to go back to doing things the way they used to.
What role do you believe the pandemic has played in family planning? How are couples (and single people) thinking about their reproductive health and birth control methods differently?
With an economic crisis, a public health catastrophe and protests in the streets, many Americans are deeply uncertain about their financial futures and are delaying starting families. We also provide emergency contraception and the FC2 internal condom to patients with insurance, (typically free of charge), and we’ve seen the need for extra emergency contraception sharply rise as people began to avoid pharmacies at all costs and as some states moved to restrict abortion access.