Do you often find patients using their smartphones or iPad when you walk into the exam room? This happens to me so often that I’ve started taking it as a cue to discuss the many useful websites and mobile health (mHealth) applications (apps) now available that are geared toward promoting sexual health.
As a midwife, patients are always asking for my opinion when it comes to choosing the best contraception method. But I don’t always have the time in a busy practice to discuss the finer points of all currently available birth control methods. My favorite website to refer patients who are looking to compare the pros and cons of different contraceptives is Bedsider.org.
Operated by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen an Unplanned Pregnancy, Bedsider targets women aged 18 to 29 years and features a convenient “method searcher,” which breaks down birth control into five clever categories that appeal to a twenty-something demographic, including “party ready” and “easy to hide.”
Another useful feature on the Bedsider website is a graphic matrix that compares 17 different birth control options on twelve criteria. Users can narrow the comparison by creating their own matrix for up to three different methods.
Another interesting website is inSPOT.org, which enables patients that have tested positive for a sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to anonymously notify past partners and advise them to be tested. Available in English, French and Spanish inSPOT.org has information on every STI, as well as tips for discussing a positive diagnosis with partners, resources for testing and treatment, and various e-Cards to send to partners advising them to get tested.
In the realm of mobile apps, MTV’s Staying Alive sex-ed campaign has launched iCondom, which uses GPS to help users find the nearest free condom dispensers to encourage safe sex. Similarly, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest has launched a Foursquare-inspired website, Where Did You Wear It, that encourages users to use their smartphone to scan a QR code on condoms to “check in” on a non-detailed world map. The idea behind the campaign is to encourage young people to spread the word to their peers about safe sex by telling the world that they are proud to use protection.
Multiple apps also exist to help remind hormonal contraceptive users to take their birth control pill at the same time each day and even offer the option to send reminders to friends. For example, myPill and other similar applications provide daily reminders for oral contraceptives, or less frequent reminders for contraceptive ring or patch users, and allow users to track their menstrual cycle. The apps are very visual, and my patients report more success than previous attempts to stay on track by setting a daily alarm.
Most savvy health-care providers try to stay current with the latest medical websites and apps for professional use, but are you also staying current with those that will provide the best resources for your patients? Do you have a favorite patient education website or app that you frequently recommend? Share it with your fellow health-care providers in the comments section below.
Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.