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Startup working on national rollout of abortion referral app

Waterloo Region Record with Lyndsey Butcher 17 June 2018

A Kitchener startup is working to develop a national version of its abortion referral app.

Zeitspace Inc. developed the web-based app, called Choice Connect, for the SHORE Centre in downtown Kitchener.

The app helps women quickly and confidentially secure a referral to an abortion clinic without first going through family doctors, ultrasound clinics and blood tests.

Since the app was launched in November more than 70 per cent of the abortion patients in Waterloo Region have used it, said Lyndsey Butcher, executive director of SHORE, formerly Planned Parenthood.

Last week, SHORE launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $25,000 to take the app across the country.

It can be difficult for women in small towns and rural areas to find an abortion provider and an app like Choice Connect will help, said Butcher.

Mike Connolly, a partner at Zeitspace, said the startup started working on the app, donating its time and expertise, after hearing how difficult it can be for a woman to get a referral to the only abortion clinic in the region.

The work highlights how startups, no matter how small, can do volunteer work for nonprofits and charities, he said.

“We live here, we work here,” Connolly said. “Doing this work with SHORE helped us prototype a way of engaging with organizations that need help.”

If a national app has the same impact as Choice Connect, Butcher predicts it will save the health-care system a lot of money by eliminating unnecessary tests and appointments, and help thousands of women get direct referrals to abortion clinics.

Choice Connect had 563 users in the first four months it was online. They were from Kitchener (236), Waterloo (116), Cambridge (83), Guelph (60) and Wellington County (seven). Other users came from Windsor, London and Hamilton.

The app has freed up staff at SHORE to do something they never did before — provide abortion care, said Butcher. They started prescribing the abortion pill, and providing followup care.

Before the app, the centre was too busy responding to emails and phone calls from women trying to navigate this part of the health-care system, she said.

Butcher said startups may not have money to make donations to nonprofits and charities, but they have expertise that can save a charity a lot of money.

Before Zeitspace took on the project, Butcher received quotes ranging from $34,000 to $80,000 for building the app.

“It is very rare that a traditional funder would fund this type of project even though it has such significant impacts on the overall system,” she said.

“If I had to pay for that service from a web designer there is no way we could have afforded it.”