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Access to Complex Abortion Care Service and Planning Improved through a Toll-Free Telephone Resource… Norman, Wendy V.; Hestrin, Barbara; Dueck, Royce Feb 13, 2014

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Research ArticleAccess to Complex Abortion Care Service and PlanningImproved through a Toll-Free Telephone Resource LineWendy V. Norman,1,2 Barbara Hestrin,3 and Royce Dueck2,41 Department of Family Practice, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z32 Contraception Access Research Team, Women’s Health Research Institute, BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, Vancouver, BC,Canada V6H 3N13 BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6H 3N14 Pregnancy Options Service, BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6H 3N1Correspondence should be addressed to Wendy V. Norman; wendy.norman@ubc.caReceived 27 June 2013; Revised 8 November 2013; Accepted 5 January 2014; Published 13 February 2014Academic Editor: Enrique HernandezCopyright © 2014 Wendy V. Norman et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons AttributionLicense, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properlycited.Background. Providing equitable access to the full range of reproductive health services over wide geographic areas presentssignificant challenges to any health system. We present a review of a service provision model which has provided improved accessto abortion care; support for complex issues experienced by women seeking nonjudgmental family planning health services; and amechanism to collect information on access barriers. The toll-free pregnancy options service (POS) of British Columbia Women’sHospital and Health Centre sought to improve access to services and overcome barriers experienced by women seeking abortion.Methods.We describe the development and implementation of a province-wide toll-free telephone counseling and access facilitationservice, including establishment of a provincial network of local abortion service providers in the Canadian province of BritishColumbia from 1998 to 2010. Results. Over 2000 women annually access service via the POS line, networks of care providers areestablished and linked to central support, and central program planners receive timely information on new service gaps and accessbarriers.Conclusion.This novel service has been successful in addressing inequities and access barriers identified as priorities beforeservice establishment.The service provided unanticipated benefits to health care planning andmonitoring of provincial health carerelated service delivery and gaps. This model for low cost health service delivery may realize similar benefits when applied to otherhealth care systems where access and referral barriers exist.1. BackgroundThe pregnancy options service (POS) is toll-free telephoneservice in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC),established to improve rural and remote access to counselingand referral for induced abortion services.We review the initial decade of this service to assist thosefacing access and referral barriers and highlight the value of alow cost model which identifies health care gaps and informshealth service planning, while improving access to the fullrange of reproductive options and counseling, for womenthroughout a large geographic area.1.1. Context and History. Induced abortion is a commonprocedure in Canada currently experienced by a third ofCanadian women [1, 2]. Abortion services in BC are nearlyexclusively located in urban areas in the extreme south-west. BC, having the area of Germany and France togetheralthough only a population of approximately four million,presents significant access barriers to abortion service forthose in rural and remote areas [3]. Barriers to accessing caredisproportionally affect those with lower incomes or in ruraland remote areas [4, 5].In 1997 British Columbia Women’s Hospital and HealthCentre (BC Women’s), the tertiary maternity and women’sHindawi Publishing CorporationObstetrics and Gynecology InternationalVolume 2014, Article ID 913241, 4 pageshttp://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/9132412 Obstetrics and Gynecology Internationalhealth center for the province, implemented POSwithin theirabortion service, in response to government recommenda-tions to address the service distribution gap.2. MethodsThe POS program had three goals related to unintendedand abnormal pregnancies: improve access to care by estab-lishing a provincial counseling, information, and referralservice; provide access to counseling for women; and supportlocal health regions to identify and meet service gaps.Implementation was planned in phases. Phase I: establish aprovince-wide network of supportive professionals provid-ing counseling and/or abortion services. Phase II: designand implement a province-wide toll-free telephone coun-seling/information/referral service (POS); and a functional,secure data base. Phase III: analyze information from PhaseI and Phase II to develop and implement strategies forimproving abortion access.2.1. ImplementationPhase I. To identify care providers, while respectingpersonal safety and confidentiality, a letter from BCWomen’s, distributed to all provincial general practitionersand obstetrician-gynecologists, and one to counselors,introduced the service and invited participation in thenetwork as a service provider or as a supportive referringphysician. Letters were followed up by community meetings.Physicians and counselors from every health regionresponded positively to these invitations and participatedin the meetings and subsequent planning process andnetwork establishment. Both networks were established overan eight-month period and involved eleven communityconsultations. The initial database included participantsin approximately 50 communities representing nearlyevery health service delivery area in the province. A list ofsupportive physicians and community health workers withinregions where no services were available was also developed.A secure purposed-designed database accessible only toPOS staff and not linked in any way to other networks wasdeveloped. As professionals associated with the provision ofabortion service in Canada and the United States have beentargeted by terrorist tactics (shooting and bombing), thesecurity of the identities of the members of the network wasconsidered of the highest importance.Phase II. Implementation of the toll-free telephone servicebegan in March 1998.Phase III. Health service planning was guided by needsdelineated within the community consultations, the develop-ment of a database detailing health professional services andlocations, and ongoing identification of health care gaps. POSstaff assisted callers to overcome barriers relating to family,financial, and citizenship issues. The POS initial purpose hadincluded “to support local health regions to identify andmeet service gaps.” However, it had not been anticipated thatthe tertiary care abortion service would also benefit from15232198227619562200256526492530254423392605050010001500200025003000Number of callsTotal calls by year1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008Figure 1: Total calls to the toll-free line, by year 1998–2008.The totalnumber of calls received by the toll-free service increased graduallyover the first five years then remained relatively stable at about 2500(+/− 100) calls per year.identification of service gaps. Their real-time awareness ofaccess barriers, previously unidentified by the health system,unexpectedly offered an enhanced ability to address healthsystem gaps in access, distribution, and delivery of healthservices.3. Results3.1. Ten Years of Operation. Data on access barriers collectedover ten years have informed provincial initiatives and helpeddevelop several strategies to improve access and availability ofservices.(i) The provision of support for abortion providers fol-lowing targeted violent attacks on abortion providersin Canada.(ii) The Abortion and Quality Assurance Project (2002)was an initiative undertaken by theMinistry ofHealthof the Government of BC, specifically in response tovariations in quality and access to services detectedthrough the POS. This government health serviceimprovement initiative examined policies related toaccess, quality of care, and knowledge gaps that couldbe addressed with future services.(iii) A BC survey regarding access to contraception,counseling, and abortion services (Access to AbortionSurvey Report, 2003).(iv) Two regional centers and two smaller communitieswere assisted to establish new abortion services.POS answered over 2000 calls per year providing directaccess to a capable and responsive staff personwith the abilityto mobilize or utilize appropriate resources and information.Figure 1 details the total number of calls received by the toll-free service and the rate at which these increased graduallyover the first five years then remained relatively stable at aboutObstetrics and Gynecology International 300. of calls per callerNumber of calls per caller by health region 1998–2008FraserInteriorNorthernVancouver coastalVancouver islandTotal patients19981999200020012002200320042005200620072008Figure 2: Number of calls per caller by health region, 1998–2008. The POS service initially provided chiefly information andreferral consistent with a single call per caller, serving both healthprofessionals and women seeking care. From 2006 to 2008 there wasan increasing trend toward “case management” where the complexneeds of women seeking options for a second trimester pregnancywere handled by the service utilizing a series of calls with eachindividual.2500 (+/− 100) calls per year over the next five years. Atthe same time the service provided an unanticipated sentinelfunction. Between 1998 and 2010 POS noted a 62% decline inthe number of physicians providing abortion service outsidethe main population center, spurring research to determinethe etiology and any addressable barriers contributing to thisdecline [6, 7]. The failure of medical schools and residencytraining programs [8, 9] to include sufficient study of abortioncare may contribute to this health system gap. POS data haveprovided impetus for BC Women’s to increase training inabortion. Another situation illustrating the POS’s sentinelfunction occurred in 2007 when the United States immigra-tion regulations changed to require a valid passport for entry[10]. Until this time many who required abortion services forpregnancies beyond 20-week gestation had received care atAmerican clinics. Women in this situation frequently includethose living with substance use and mental health issues,experiencing interpersonal violence and poverty, and havinglower education levels [11–13].The POS immediately detectedthat a significant portion of women requiring this servicedid not have a passport; the time sensitive nature for thisprocedure would not allow sufficient time to acquire one.POS colocation within BC’s tertiary abortion facility allowedtimely discussions with health service administrators andrapid initiation of appropriate services in BC.Figure 2 illustrates the qualitative alteration in servicedelivery over time. The POS service initially provided chiefly00. 2–12 GA 13–16Proportion of callers from each health authority of the stated gestational ageGestational age (weeks) at the time of first callProportion of callers of each gestational age by health authority 1998–2008FraserInteriorNorthernVCHAVIHAGA > 16Figure 3: Proportion of callers of each gestational age by healthauthority, among those for whom the gestational age is known (𝑛 =7092). Although in Canada pregnancies beyond 16-week gestationalage at the time of termination are fewer than 5% of all inducedabortions, they represent a significant proportion of the users of thepregnancy options toll-free line.information and referral consistent with a single call percaller, serving both health professionals and women seekingcare. From 2006 to 2008 there was an increasing trendtoward “case management” where the complex needs ofwomen seeking options for a second trimester pregnancywere handled by the service utilizing a series of calls with eachindividual.The increase seen in the number of calls per callerto the POS line is due to a number of factors. The majorityof women with unintended pregnancies require only a singlecall for information and referral. Gradually after serviceinitiation, health professionals in remote regions began toutilize the POS decision-management pathways to improvelocal case management. For example, the management of awoman requesting an abortion has a different sequence ofdiagnostic testing (laboratory or ultrasound requirements)and a different sequence, timing, or location for services(e.g., medication abortion compared to a first trimestercompared to a multiday second trimester surgical abortion).Over time POS has increasingly evolved into a complex casemanagement service.Women with unintended pregnancy of advanced gesta-tion, and those with an abnormal pregnancy, are a smallproportion of those seeking abortion services, but a signif-icant proportion of those seeking service with the POS line(Figure 3). In Canada more than 90 percent of abortionsoccur before 12 weeks and fewer than 3% beyond 16 weeks[4, 14] as compared to the proportion of callers to POS withnearly 30% beyond 16-week gestation. The POS expertise inachieving access for women led to a high level of trust among4 Obstetrics and Gynecology Internationallocal health system administrators and local health serviceproviders. Over time, POS increasingly played a role as a keyinformant in relevant aspects of both central and regionalhealth care plannings.Next Steps. A formal stakeholder evaluation of POS isunderway and iterative refinement of the POS data collectionsystem and resources list continues.4. ConclusionThePOSprovides health system administrators with a serviceprovision model to identify and address barriers to accesshealth services over wide geographic areas. The toll-freePOS counseling and referral line has provided direct assis-tance and support for marginalized and vulnerable women.The greatest value may be to health system administratorsthrough provision of real-time information on health ser-vice needs and gaps, thus informing continuous integratedimprovements to health care planning. The benefit of con-tinuously monitoring health service needs, while providingdirect assistance to the most vulnerable in need of servicesirrespective of geographic barriers,may be applicable in otherareas of health care where access barriers exist.DisclosureThis paper reports secondary analysis of data only and doesnot report on any direct research on human subjects. Nohuman subjects are identified in this report.Conflict of InterestsAll three authors have worked for BC Women’s Hospital andHealth Centre (BC Women’s). Wendy Norman and BarbaraHestrin are former employees. Barbara Hestrin was directlyinvolved in the creation of the POS program.WendyNormanis a former medical director of the POS program. RoyceDueck is currently employed by BC Women’s and at thetime of writing this paper was working within the POSprogram. Neither the authors nor BC Women’s will gainfinancially from the publication of this paper. The authorsdeclare that they have no other financial or nonfinancialcompeting interests in relation to this paper.Authors’ ContributionWendyNorman andRoyceDueck planned this paper.WendyNorman wrote and Royce Dueck edited the first draft.Barbara Hestrin contributed in the major rewrite, addinghistorical context and details on program planning andoutcomes. All authors revised and approved the final paper.References[1] W. V. Norman, “Induced abortion in Canada 1974–2005: trendsover the first generation with legal access,” Contraception, vol.85, no. 2, pp. 185–191, 2012.[2] Statistics Canada, “Induced abortions in hospitals and clinics,by age group and area of residence of patient, Canada, provincesand territories, annual (table),” CANSIM database Table 106-9034, http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?lang=eng&retrLang=eng&id=1069034&paSer=&pattern=&stByVal=1&p1=1&p2=-1&tabMode=dataTable&csid=.[3] C. Kaposy, “Improving abortion access in Canada,”Health CareAnalysis, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 17–34, 2010.[4] S. Dunn, M. R. Wise, L. M. Johnson et al., “Reproductive andgynaecological health,” inProject for anOntarioWomen’s HealthEvidence-Based Report, A. S. Bierman, Ed., vol. 2, 2011, http://powerstudy.ca/power-report/volume2/reproductive-gynaeco-logical-health/.[5] L. E. Ferris and M. McMain-Klein, “Small-area variations inutilization of abortion services in Ontario from 1985 to 1992,”Canadian Medical Association Journal, vol. 152, no. 11, pp. 1801–1807, 1995.[6] W. V. Norman, “Abortion in British Columbia: trends over 10years compared to Canada,” Contraception, vol. 84, no. 3, p. 316,2011.[7] W. V. Norman, J. A. Soon, N. Maughn, and J. Dressler, “Barriersto rural induced abortion services in Canada: findings of theBritish Columbia abortions provider survey (BCAPS),” PLoSONE, vol. 8, no. 6, Article ID e67023, 2013.[8] T. A. Cessford and W. Norman, “Making a case for abor-tion curriculum reform: a knowledge-assessment survey ofundergraduate medical students,” Journal of Obstetrics andGynaecology, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 38–45, 2011.[9] G. Roy, R. Parvataneni, B. Friedman, K. Eastwood, P. D. Darney,and J. Steinauer, “Abortion training in Canadian obstetrics andgynecology residency programs,” Obstetrics and Gynecology,vol. 108, no. 2, pp. 309–314, 2006.[10] E. A. Drey, D. G. Foster, R. A. Jackson, S. J. Lee, L. H. Cardenas,and P. D. Darney, “Risk factors associated with presenting forabortion in the second trimester,” Obstetrics and Gynecology,vol. 107, no. 1, pp. 128–135, 2006.[11] D. G. Foster, R. A. Jackson, K. Cosby, T. A. Weitz, P. D. Darney,and E. A. Drey, “Predictors of delay in each step leading to anabortion,” Contraception, vol. 77, no. 4, pp. 289–293, 2008.[12] L. B. Finer, L. F. Frohwirth, L. A. Dauphinee, S. Singh, and A.M. Moore, “Timing of steps and reasons for delays in obtainingabortions in the United States,” Contraception, vol. 74, no. 4, pp.334–344, 2006.[13] S. Henshaw, “Unintended pregnancy and abortion in the USA:epidemiology and public health impact,” in Management ofUnintended and Abnormal Pregnancy: Comprehensive AbortionCare, M. Paul, E. S. Lichtenberg, L. Borgatta, D. A. Grimes,P. G. Stubblefield, and M. D. Creinin, Eds., chapter 3, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK, 2009.[14] L. E. Ferris, M. McMain-Klein, N. Colodny, G. F. Fellows,and J. Lamont, “Factors associated with immediate abortioncomplications,” Canadian Medical Association Journal, vol. 154,no. 11, pp. 1677–1685, 1996.Submit your manuscripts athttp://www.hindawi.comStem CellsInternationalHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Hindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014MEDIATORSINFLAMMATIONofHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Behavioural NeurologyEndocrinologyInternational Journal ofHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Hindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Disease MarkersHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014BioMed Research InternationalOncologyJournal ofHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Hindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Oxidative Medicine and Cellular LongevityHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014PPAR ResearchThe Scientific World JournalHindawi Publishing Corporation http://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Immunology ResearchHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Journal ofObesityJournal ofHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Hindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014 Computational and  Mathematical Methods in MedicineOphthalmologyJournal ofHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Diabetes ResearchJournal ofHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Hindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Research and TreatmentAIDSHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Gastroenterology Research and PracticeHindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com Volume 2014Parkinson’s DiseaseEvidence-Based Complementary and Alternative MedicineVolume 2014Hindawi Publishing Corporationhttp://www.hindawi.com


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