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This presentation was given by Associate Professor Suzanne Belton from the Menzies School of Health Research.
A/Prof Belton presented data from the study using quantitative and qualitative data to capture clinical process and outcome data from a telehealth abortion provider, Tabbot telehealth service.
She explained that access to abortion in Australia is limited by several factors, especially in regional, rural and remote areas.
Since the TGA approval of medical abortion in Australia, only 1.5% of registered medical practitioners have obtained certification to prescribe.
Telehealth models of care have been found to work well internationally. The study looked at whether telehealth abortion was a safe, effective and acceptable option in Australia.
The study aimed to provide information to health managers and policy makers which can be used to inform a responsive reproductive health care system.
The clinical outcomes included efficacy and safety , and process outcomes included acceptability by women using the service.
The data showed that one quarter of women chose not to proceed with a telehealth abortion, but for whose who did, clinical outcomes were very good. No adverse events were reported.
Interestingly, of the 717 women in the study, only 8 (1%) and 2 (<1%) of women registering with the Tabbot telehealth service were from remote or very remote areas respectively. 296 (41%) of women were from major cities and 318 (44%) from inner regional areas.
The women interviewed reported high levels of satisfaction, privacy, quality of care and levels of support.
In conclusion, telehealth abortion is safe, effective and acceptable to Australian women who experience limited reproductive health service options.
A/Prof Belton also presented a comparison of three telehealth abortion services available in Australia. These included the Tabbot Foundation, Cairns Doctors and Marie Stopes. The Tabbot Foundations provided the cheapest option for patients at $250 (no medicare rebate). Aside from cost, the three services were found to be similar in the way they are set up and run and in terms of patient requirements.
The presentation provided some valuable insights into access issues for medical abortion in Australia, and innovative ways to help provide women with choices and improved access.