Doctor providing consultation via telephone

Research shows medical abortion via telehealth is accessible and acceptable in Australia

Sigrid Firth Abortion, Advocacy, Equity and access, Media, Safe access

A new study published in the July issue of BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health shows that at-home medical abortion via telehealth is accessible, convenient, and plays a key role in the accessibility of abortion care across Australia.

The joint qualitative study between Marie Stopes Australia, Ibis Reproductive Health, and Monash University showed that participants selected the at-home telemedicine model for the convenience, due to lack of travel required to access the service, and the ability to obtain care with minimal or no disruption to work and childcare responsibilities.

Most participants reported satisfaction with the medical abortion service, felt the information they received was clear, and the interactions they had with the provider were positive. Participants also perceived the level of privacy in the at-home telemedicine visit to be equal to or better than privacy of an in-person visit. Most said they would recommend the service to a friend or family member.

Marie Stopes Australia was one of the first to establish the country’s first direct-to-patient medical abortion via telehealth service in 2015 and the service has grown in use since.

In 2018, the research team conducted interviews with 24 participants from Marie Stopes Australia’s medical abortion via telehealth service. These interviews are part of a suite of studies analysing the role and impact of Marie Stopes Australia’s first at-home medical abortion via telehealth model.

During COVID-19 early medical abortion via telehealth has played a critical role in maintaining access to abortion care. Abortions in Australia have been classified an essential service throughout the public health crisis.

Temporary COVID-19 Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) telehealth item numbers, introduced at the start of the pandemic have provided vital support to people accessing abortion care, apart from South Australia where the service is not legal.

Marie Stopes Australia, like many other health services providing telehealth, is concerned about the temporary nature of these item numbers and strongly advocates for them to continue throughout and beyond this pandemic.