Fertility Patient Care – What You Can Expect

At the recent Fertility Show Africa 2022, Dr Mandy Rodrigues – resident clinical psychologist at Medfem Fertility Clinic – introduced the Fertility Patients Care Guidance published by the European Fertility Society (EFS), which is now being used worldwide to improve patient care in fertility clinics.

Dr Rodrigues has worked in the field of infertility for the past 25 years and a large part of her work focusses on the need for a multidisciplinary approach to infertility, specifically including stress management. She is an expert in this field and has presented and published various books and articles on the subject. Our Medfem team is very proud of Dr Rodrigues’ role in the European Fertility Society and her contribution to this important Guide that will benefit fertility clinics globally, and we gladly share some highlights from the Guide, based on her presentation at FSA 2022.

Today’s patients need a different kind of fertility care. These days, patients have 24/7 access to vast amounts of information, and come to a fertility consultation with far more knowledge about treatments and the fertility process. As a result, many patients are no longer just passive recipients of information, simply accepting whatever doctors say.

In fact, today’s patients are actively engaged in their fertility treatments. They compare clinics and fertility success rates, research different treatment options and, given the costs involved and the tough emotional journey they go through, they expect to have a positive experience.

To better cater to today’s fertility patients, the European Fertility Society (EFS) was formed during COVID, and over the period of a year, its Patient Care Guidance Development Group completed the process of creating practical Fertility Patients Care Guidance for person-centred care at fertility clinics across the world. The Group included 18 experts – 15 fertility specialists including Dr Rodrigues, 2 patient association representatives and a quality manager.

The Guide is based on best-practice evidence, and also considers widely divergent cultural and legislative contexts around the world. The aim is to provide wider coverage of key aspects of patient care at fertility clinics to give continuous support to patient care specialists and, consequently, to improve patient care, benefitting fertility patients as well as clinics.

The take-away message of the Guide is this: it is very important that patients are supported from entry to the clinic, if not before, and all the way through their fertility journey. This type of support, the evidence shows, ensures that patient’s success rates are better, that they are more likely to return to the clinic, and more likely to leave happier.

When patients feel more supported, they go through their treatment with more confidence, while also learning how to cope with infertility in day-to-day life and how to improve their relationships. A higher level of patient care also reduces patient drop-out and creates a safe and comfortable environment for better outcomes.

The value of patient care

The Guide devotes the first chapter to highlight that the evidence shows that a patient-centred approach in fertility care settings can:

* increase patient satisfaction and emotional wellbeing;
* enhance patient self-care;
* improve patient understanding of and compliance with treatment protocols; and
* increase the likelihood of patients continuing treatment until a viable pregnancy is achieved, which in turn leads to higher cumulative live birth rates.

Around the world, there is a welcome shift towards what is called patient-centred care. What this means is in practice is that patients feel welcome in the fertility clinic, they are not simply treated as just numbers, coming in and out the clinic without anyone knowing their names. Patient-centred care refers to warm empathy towards patients that is evident among all clinic staff members, from the security staff and receptionist to the fertility specialists and lab technicians, as well as to an approach to treatment that ensures the best interest of the patient is at the centre of every decision.

Informing and prevention

Chapter 2 of the Guide focusses on the role of fertility clinics in providing information, as well as the quality of information provided to patients.

In the Information Age, there is great deal of information available about infertility, the various treatment options, and the processes involved, and this information can vary from one clinic to another, while some sources may not be professional, accurate or scientific.

To contribute to more awareness about fertility and to counter misinformation, it is important that clinics provide comprehensive, user-friendly and evidence-based information about important fertility issues, highlighting the impact of lifestyle factors on fertility and treatment success rates, and also bring male partners into fertility decisions.

The Guide also details the information that clinics should provide patients in an honest and open manner before any treatment decisions are finalised, for example, patients must be explicitly informed of possible success rates, of the likely need to repeat treatments, and the legal status of the treatments.

Support is required from the outset

It is not only time to pregnancy or success rates that drive patient retention, treatment compliance and patient satisfaction: these factors are also determined by the care and compassion offered to patients by all staff members.

It is not enough to just provide access to a psychological counsellor. Patients should be encouraged to access appropriate support structures and should feel supported by all clinic staff at every point of contact. Just some of the suggestions in the Guide to achieve this include providing support services through a single point of contact such as a fertility coordinator, building relationships with each patient, recognising the differing needs of international patients and patients opting for donor conception, offering a patient mentor programme, creating exit strategies for those considering ceasing treatment, and implementing support and training for staff.

For example, at Medfem, we have a team of highly trained and experienced fertility coordinators. Each one of our patient couples has their own dedicated fertility coordinators, who walks the entire journey with the couple.

Virtual communication is here to stay

The advantages of virtual healthcare have been welcomed by both patients and clinics but, in adopting these new methods of interaction, patients must be continuously encouraged to remain in control of their treatment decisions.

Given adequate information, patients are empowered to be active participants in their fertility treatment plan. Online or virtual communication can lessen the patient workload and help better manage stress, improving the overall experience and protecting both the patient and the clinic.

The future of patient care

The future of patient care is exciting, as the digitalisation of communication offers clinics innovative ways of communicating and supporting patients, providing personalise care and continuity, not to mention 24/7 assistance.

The future also holds big data analytic solutions that can accurately predict individual patient success rates based on specific circumstances. Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions also build on big data analytics to further enhance technology platforms that estimate IVF success rates.

As technology evolves, it will become ever-more important to choose a clinic that offers patient-centred care.

Finding patient-centred care near you

You can download a pocket version of the Fertility Patients Care Guidance from www.europeanfertilitysociety.com. Then make sure you choose a fertility clinic that not only implements this world-class guidance, but also actively contributes to the development of patient-centred care.

Our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic believes in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone. It is our joy and commitment to give you a positive outcome to your fertility journey, so you will have a fond memory of feeling empathy, caring and being part of the Medfem Fertility Clinic family.

At Medfem, we believe in helping you reach your family dream through:

* World-Class Fertility for Everyone
* A Positive Fertility Journey
* Delivered With Empathy & Caring

If you would like to meet one of our fertility specialists at Medfem Fertility Clinic, simply click here  to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.

Our Fertility Specialists can also meet with You During a Virtual Consultation Via Zoom or Skype. Click here to book a virtual consultation now.
We look forward to meeting you!


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