Woman sits on sofa with laptop
Patient filling out IVF survey

With the help of a handful of passionate patients, the first iteration of our first IVF survey is now live. Patients have told us exactly what they would have wanted to know when they were choosing an IVF clinic. Questions are led from their experiences (both positive and negative). Indeed, sometimes a patient has said, “But why would you ask that? This wasn’t a problem for me…” and then another patient from a different clinic will raise it as their top issue! So hopefully, we’ve captured the spectrum of possible concerns.

This survey matters because it mean that as patients we have somewhere we can share our experiences of IVF clinics.With your help, we’ll be able to then measure and compare the performance of clinics, through patients’ eyes.

There has been much press coverage of late around IVF clinics, their practices in selling add-ons, the extent to which they are providing evidence for claims, etc. But that debate is led entirely by clinics fighting amongst each other for market share. As patients we have no voice. This must change. 

We’ll be collecting reviews and, at least initially, looking over them before publishing (just to make sure they’re on topic). So, if you’ve got 10 minutes to spare and would like to share your experiences, good or bad, with other patients, thank you!

PS – Obviously we don’t ask for your name in the survey and in fact would encourage you to ensure any comments you make are anonymous.

 

Man looks at his watch.
I’m going to be late!

One of the most difficult aspects of being an IVF patient is balancing the treatment around your other commitments; this is particularly true for women who have scans, egg collection, embryo transfer, etc. to work round, but it can also be awkward for men who have to explain their way out of the office at short notice for a medical matter they’d probably really rather not discuss with their colleagues.

To the best of my knowledge, nobody has yet calculated the economic cost of all of those hours spent sitting in waiting rooms. Or indeed, the extent to which stress levels rise as patients fret over meetings they’re late for, deadlines they’ve missed and phone calls they can’t take in a crowded room full of mostly silent, unhappy patients.

There’s no statutory right for employees to take time off during IVF treatment and even if there were, how many women would be in a rush to tell their bosses that they’re trying to get pregnant?

That’s why I was delighted to speak with Dr. Suvir Venkataraman at Harley Street Fertility Clinic. This private clinic in London is challenging the norm and offering initial consultations and scans outside of normal office hours. So you can work and do IVF without having to tell your boss about it! They’re open for scans and initial consultations from 8 ’til 8 and on Saturdays. So, for example, you can choose to have evening scans with the same consultant throughout.

We’ll be publishing a full review of Harley Street Fertility Clinic in due course but if you’re a patient and have any comments, please do drop me a line.

 

 

A lady sits on sofa with a cup of tea. Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash
IVF counselling support.

I recently chatted with Nicola Graver, a Director at Bourn Hall clinics, a chain in East Anglia, to discuss their approach to treatment and what made them unique. One aspect of Bourn Hall’s approach that deeply impressed me, was their commitment to looking after their patients on the journey – and this isn’t just lip service.

Bourn Hall offers all patients free access to independent specialised counselling which can be on site at their clinics, off site (for example at the patient’s home at no additional cost) or through Skype according to the patient’s preference. Patients may have three inclusive counselling sessions up to one year after the end of treatment.

In other words, the counselling is built into the cycle cost rather than being something that patients have to shell out for on top of the rest. It isn’t an afterthought. A box to tick. On the contrary, such a program demonstrates a clinic has given thought to the patient experience with all its ups and downs.

Not all clinics place great emphasis on supporting their patients through what can be an extremely difficult journey, full of not-always-welcome surprises. And whilst it is tempting to kick off a series of best practice posts on grittier matters of pricing, protocols, etc. actually Bourn Hall impressed me with their warm and empathetic approach.

But that’s just me. If you’re a Bourn Hall patient and you’ve got any comments on this, I would love to hear from you. You understand better than anyone the stresses of IVF.

As I speak with other clinics, I’ll be shining a light on other ‘stand out’ practices across the industry.