GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — From cancer screening to birth control, healthcare moves from the clinic to your device in an attempt to break barriers.
“Hi Teshawna, my name is Jessica.”
The call starts out like a typical medical appointment, but Family Nurse Practitioner Jessica Lothrop gives health advice to patients who don’t have to leave home.
“Get what I need over the phone,” Teshawna Sawyer said.
Sawyer demonstrates how easy an appointment can be. She works with sexual assault and human trafficking victims and for those clients or anyone who may find it tough to visit a clinic, she sees benefits to going virtual.
“It's important they have access to that in a quick manner,” she said.
Lothrop doesn't see a lot of virtual patients, but for follow-up questions or a change in birth control that only requires a quick visit, it's easier than taking time off work and driving to clinic locations in Kearney and Grand Island.
“We have a lot of people in our Kearney office who drive from Lexington so they don't have to make that drive,” Lothrop said.
A 2020 report by the University of Nebraska Medical Center finds 90% of Nebraska counties face a shortage of OB/GYNs. Federally funded clinics like Choice Family Health Care offer annual exams, pap smears, cancer screenings, plus testing for sexually transmitted infections.
“Not only are there services we provide, we can connect with other services in the community,” said Executive Director Ryan King.
King said they served patients in 33 counties last year including some in rural areas with limited resources and that's where he thinks telehealth makes sense.
“Especially in rural Nebraska it gives other options than coming in office,” he said.
Lothrop said many appointments are still best done in person. But virtual visits are convenient. No need for someone to take a half day off work for a 10-minute appointment.
“It's been a good option we can have for people,” Lothrop said.
The telehealth option is funded by a half-million dollar federal grant benefiting clinics with locations across the state.
Nebraska Family Planning (NEFP) has launched the In Control campaign. Through a central website and promotional materials, they’re trying to bring awareness to what Title X funded clinics provide.
Ryan King said Choice Family Health Care uses a sliding scale and services may be at no cost in some cases. Insurance is not required.
The virtual appointments are conducted by phone or video call, and translation services are available. Visit InControlNebraska.com to learn more about the campaign and to sign up for a virtual appointment.