June 26, 2017

New service offers online STD treatment

Burning, itching, pain. One of your worst nightmares has come true — you think you might have a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Too embarrassed to face your family doctor and talk about your sex life, you do not know where to turn. One company aims to change that.

BeSafeMeds provides an STD treatment service exclusively online and over the phone. BeSafeMeds creator, Chicago ER doctor Segun Ishmael, launched the program November 2016. He said that the goal of BeSafeMeds is to make STD treatment more efficient for people, especially in today’s world with online dating with apps such as Tinder and Bumble.

“Technology has made it easier to meet more people. It’s just the way the world is,” Ishmael said. “As technology has made it easier to interact with people, we want to make sure technology also helps us fix any problems that may arise through those interactions.”

In three steps, patients are treated without having to physically go to the doctor’s office. After logging on to besafemeds. com, patients will:

• Enter their birthday to ensure they are over 18. Then, fill out an online questionnaire about symptoms.

• Get diagnosed by speaking with a medical professional over the phone, answering a few questions about symptoms. All BeSafeMeds professionals are physicians or nurse practitioners with years of experience in emergency rooms or primary care settings. The professional may call you within as little as 15 minutes of filling out the online questionnaire.

• Receive treatment by visiting the pharmacy of your choice to pick up your prescribed treatment.

However, not all cases require prescription medication. If symptoms are too severe to treat via BeSafeMeds, the medical professional will recommend that the patient see a doctor.

Webster University Freshman animation major Zieyal Wonch said she thinks BeSafeMeds is a good idea since talking about STDs might be embarrassing for some people.

“Sometimes it’s a hassle just to go and see a doctor and make an appointment,” Wonch said. “Some people’s schedules don’t line up where they don’t have the transportation. I don’t have a car. I can only transport myself around with buses. I think it would be more convenient for a lot of people who can’t travel.”

Junior video production major Alyssa Shank said she feels that BeSafeMeds should not be a substitute for physically seeing a doctor.

“I believe, in our circumstances as college students, we should be checked in person by physicians,” Shank said. “The online approach may be a good idea in theory, especially for those who cannot afford to see a doctor, but I don’t think it is the safest or most effective way to make sure your health is in check.”

The idea for BeSafeMeds started as a joke, Ishmael said. He said he was in Las Vegas with a colleague, discussing the saying “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

“What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas,” Ishmael said. “We see a lot of those [STD] cases in the ER, and we were like, it would be a lot easier if someone could go to an app and say ‘hey, I suspect I might have an STD, can I get a treatment?’”

BeSafeMeds currently has three physicians and four nurse practitioners. Ishmael said the site has had about 1,500 users so far. BeSafeMeds currently operates in five states: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico and Florida. While the medical professional speaking to you may not physically be in your state, they are licensed in your state. Only professionals who are licensed in your state will give you a consultation.

The five states of operation were chosen based upon where the physicians and nurse practitioners of BeSafeMeds are licensed. Ishmael is licensed in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, and his colleagues are licensed in Florida, New Mexico and Illinois. If your state does not have BeSafeMeds, you can request on the website to have the service in your state.

Ishmael said so far, they have had requests for California and Pennsylvania. The company is currently looking into Georgia and Nevada as well. Ishmael said the ultimate goal is to be available in all 50 states. The cost for the one-on-one consultation is $20. This cost does not include the prescription fee. If a prescription is deemed necessary after the diagnosis, patients can pick up the prescription at the pharmacy of their choice. BeSafeMeds does not save or share any identifiable information.

“STDs are truly a controllable disease,” Ishmael said.

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