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      Telehealth for Addressing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond: A Hybrid Telemedicine-Community Accompaniment Model for Abortion and Contraception Services in Pakistan


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          The COVID-19 pandemic led overburdened health care systems to deprioritize essential sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion and contraception care, while accelerating shifts in healthcare delivery to digital technologies. However, in many countries, including Pakistan, inequalities in access to digital technologies remain, presenting an opportunity for interventions that both increase access to deprioritized sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services and overcome the digital divide in delivering digital solutions to those in need of SRHR services. In June 2020, Ipas Pakistan partnered with Sehat Kahani (SK), a local health care NGO and telehealth service, and an existing network of Lady Health Workers (LHWs) to launch a novel hybrid telemedicine-community accompaniment pilot. The model linked women via LHWs with mobile devices to online providers for telemedicine consultations for SRH, including abortion services, contraception, and other gynecological consultations. In June 2020, we trained 98 LHWs and 22 telehealth doctors. Between June 2020 and March 2021, a total of 176 women were referred by LHWs for telehealth consultations. Among women who received abortion services, nearly all (90%) reported complete uterine evacuation. No serious adverse events were reported. Overall satisfaction was high; 81% reported being satisfied, and 86% said it is likely they would recommend the telehealth service to others. Data show that the provision of SRHR services via a telehealth-accompaniment model can be successfully implemented in Pakistan. Outcome data show high satisfaction and good clinical outcomes for women accessing care through this model. However, more data are needed to understand the full potential of this model. Barriers to digital health models, such as poor or inconsistent internet access, remain in places like Pakistan, especially in rural settings. This approach has its limitations but should be considered as an option in settings with similarly established community health networks and inequitable access to digital health.

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          Measuring performance on the Healthcare Access and Quality Index for 195 countries and territories and selected subnational locations: a systematic analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016

          Summary Background A key component of achieving universal health coverage is ensuring that all populations have access to quality health care. Examining where gains have occurred or progress has faltered across and within countries is crucial to guiding decisions and strategies for future improvement. We used the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2016 (GBD 2016) to assess personal health-care access and quality with the Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ) Index for 195 countries and territories, as well as subnational locations in seven countries, from 1990 to 2016. Methods Drawing from established methods and updated estimates from GBD 2016, we used 32 causes from which death should not occur in the presence of effective care to approximate personal health-care access and quality by location and over time. To better isolate potential effects of personal health-care access and quality from underlying risk factor patterns, we risk-standardised cause-specific deaths due to non-cancers by location-year, replacing the local joint exposure of environmental and behavioural risks with the global level of exposure. Supported by the expansion of cancer registry data in GBD 2016, we used mortality-to-incidence ratios for cancers instead of risk-standardised death rates to provide a stronger signal of the effects of personal health care and access on cancer survival. We transformed each cause to a scale of 0–100, with 0 as the first percentile (worst) observed between 1990 and 2016, and 100 as the 99th percentile (best); we set these thresholds at the country level, and then applied them to subnational locations. We applied a principal components analysis to construct the HAQ Index using all scaled cause values, providing an overall score of 0–100 of personal health-care access and quality by location over time. We then compared HAQ Index levels and trends by quintiles on the Socio-demographic Index (SDI), a summary measure of overall development. As derived from the broader GBD study and other data sources, we examined relationships between national HAQ Index scores and potential correlates of performance, such as total health spending per capita. Findings In 2016, HAQ Index performance spanned from a high of 97·1 (95% UI 95·8–98·1) in Iceland, followed by 96·6 (94·9–97·9) in Norway and 96·1 (94·5–97·3) in the Netherlands, to values as low as 18·6 (13·1–24·4) in the Central African Republic, 19·0 (14·3–23·7) in Somalia, and 23·4 (20·2–26·8) in Guinea-Bissau. The pace of progress achieved between 1990 and 2016 varied, with markedly faster improvements occurring between 2000 and 2016 for many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia, whereas several countries in Latin America and elsewhere saw progress stagnate after experiencing considerable advances in the HAQ Index between 1990 and 2000. Striking subnational disparities emerged in personal health-care access and quality, with China and India having particularly large gaps between locations with the highest and lowest scores in 2016. In China, performance ranged from 91·5 (89·1–93·6) in Beijing to 48·0 (43·4–53·2) in Tibet (a 43·5-point difference), while India saw a 30·8-point disparity, from 64·8 (59·6–68·8) in Goa to 34·0 (30·3–38·1) in Assam. Japan recorded the smallest range in subnational HAQ performance in 2016 (a 4·8-point difference), whereas differences between subnational locations with the highest and lowest HAQ Index values were more than two times as high for the USA and three times as high for England. State-level gaps in the HAQ Index in Mexico somewhat narrowed from 1990 to 2016 (from a 20·9-point to 17·0-point difference), whereas in Brazil, disparities slightly increased across states during this time (a 17·2-point to 20·4-point difference). Performance on the HAQ Index showed strong linkages to overall development, with high and high-middle SDI countries generally having higher scores and faster gains for non-communicable diseases. Nonetheless, countries across the development spectrum saw substantial gains in some key health service areas from 2000 to 2016, most notably vaccine-preventable diseases. Overall, national performance on the HAQ Index was positively associated with higher levels of total health spending per capita, as well as health systems inputs, but these relationships were quite heterogeneous, particularly among low-to-middle SDI countries. Interpretation GBD 2016 provides a more detailed understanding of past success and current challenges in improving personal health-care access and quality worldwide. Despite substantial gains since 2000, many low-SDI and middle-SDI countries face considerable challenges unless heightened policy action and investments focus on advancing access to and quality of health care across key health services, especially non-communicable diseases. Stagnating or minimal improvements experienced by several low-middle to high-middle SDI countries could reflect the complexities of re-orienting both primary and secondary health-care services beyond the more limited foci of the Millennium Development Goals. Alongside initiatives to strengthen public health programmes, the pursuit of universal health coverage hinges upon improving both access and quality worldwide, and thus requires adopting a more comprehensive view—and subsequent provision—of quality health care for all populations. Funding Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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            Patient Characteristics Associated With Telemedicine Access for Primary and Specialty Ambulatory Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

            Key Points Question What sociodemographic factors are associated with higher use of telemedicine and the use of video (vs telephone) for telemedicine visits for ambulatory care during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic? Findings In this cohort study of 148 402 patients scheduled for primary care and medical specialty ambulatory telemedicine visits at a large academic health system during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, older age, Asian race, non-English language as the patient’s preferred language, and Medicaid were independently associated with fewer completed telemedicine visits. Older age, female sex, Black race, Latinx ethnicity, and lower household income were associated with lower use of video for telemedicine care. Meaning This study identified racial/ethnic, sex, age, language, and socioeconomic differences in accessing telemedicine for primary care and specialty ambulatory care; if not addressed, these differences may compound existing inequities in care among vulnerable populations.
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              Estimates of the Potential Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Sexual and Reproductive Health In Low- and Middle-Income Countries

              Riley, Sully, Ahmed (2020)
              The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 has spread rapidly since emerging in late 2019, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the disease a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. Governments around the world have had to quickly adapt and respond to curb transmission of the virus and to provide care for the many who have been infected. The strain that the outbreak imposes on health systems will undoubtedly impact the sexual and reproductive health of individuals living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs); however, sexual and reproductive health will also be affected by societal responses to the pandemic, such as local or national lockdowns that force health services to shut down if they are not deemed essential, as well as the consequences of physical distancing, travel restrictions and economic slowdowns.

                Author and article information

                Front Glob Womens Health
                Front Glob Womens Health
                Front. Glob. Womens Health
                Frontiers in Global Women's Health
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                26 July 2021
                26 July 2021
                : 2
                : 705262
                [1] 1Ipas Pakistan , Islamabad, Pakistan
                [2] 2Ipas , Chapel Hill, NC, United States
                Author notes

                Edited by: Fatih Durmusoglu, Istanbul Medipol University, Turkey

                Reviewed by: Charles Doarn, University of Cincinnati, United States; Heidi Johnston, Independent Consultant, Switzerland

                *Correspondence: Irum Shaikh ShaikhI@ 123456ipas.org

                This article was submitted to Contraception and Family Planning, a section of the journal Frontiers in Global Women's Health

                Copyright © 2021 Shaikh, Küng, Aziz, Sabir, Shabbir, Ahmed and Dabash.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 05 May 2021
                : 24 June 2021
                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 2, Equations: 0, References: 26, Pages: 8, Words: 6379
                Global Women's Health
                Community Case Study

                abortion services,sexual and reproductive health and rights (srhr),covid-19,telehealth,pakistan,digital health,contraception,telemedicine


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