Jill Durocher

Evaluation of a “Smart” Screening Tool for Asynchronous Assessment of Medication Abortion Eligibility: A Pilot Study

November 20th, 2023
Medication Abortion
Raymond, E.G., Frye, L.J., Tocce, K., Gingras, S., Almquist, A., Firstenberg, A., Ortega, C., Blumenthal, P.D., Winikoff, B., Boraas, C.

Contraception; November 20, 2023:110340. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2023.110340. Online ahead of print.

Objectives: This study aimed to assess the feasibility, safety, and acceptability of asynchronous screening for medication abortion eligibility using a programmed questionnaire.

Study design: For this study, we developed an informational website about medication abortion with a linked questionnaire programmed to produce a conclusion regarding eligibility according to standard criteria. We enrolled people in Colorado and Minnesota who submitted questionnaires indicating eligibility. A study physician reviewed each questionnaire and medical records if available and determined whether the responses warranted treatment without a synchronous clinical consultation or ultrasound. If so, the physician prescribed a standard regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol. We collected posttreatment data on abortion outcome, adverse events, and satisfaction.

Results: We received questionnaires from 197 individuals, of whom 160 remained in the study until the physician made a final treatment decision. Physicians prescribed medication abortion to 156 (97.5%) individuals based on the questionnaire responses, whereas four needed further assessment to confirm eligibility. Of the 156 individuals, 130 had sufficient follow-up to assess abortion outcome, and 123 (95%) had complete medication abortions without additional treatment. One participant was hospitalized for bleeding, and one expelled a 15-week fetus; however, it is not clear that conventional synchronous history-based screening would have averted these events. Of the 197 questionnaires, 42% were submitted outside business hours. On satisfaction questionnaires, 134 (96%) of 144 participants said they would recommend the study to a friend who needed an abortion.

Conclusions: Data from this pilot project suggest that providing medication abortion based only on a self-administered, programmed questionnaire is likely to be effective, safe, efficient, and acceptable.

Implications: A programmed self-administered patient questionnaire to assess eligibility for medication abortion could reduce the cost of the service, augment clinic efficiency, improve quality of care, and enhance access to abortion.

Keywords: Asynchronous, Feasibility, Medication abortion, Safety, Telemedicine