I was born via Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), and I think that’s what may have drawn me into the fertility field after college. While working with a private fertility clinic in Ohio, I began to take an interest in our patients’ journeys. I feel that the patient experience is one of the most important, and most overlooked, aspects of treatment. This is especially true when you are dealing with something as emotionally sensitive as infertility. Research has shown that focusing on patient-driven care not only improves the patient retention rate, but has also been shown to increase treatment success rates, as well.

A study published in Fertility and Sterility by Olivius, et al., followed patients that had three cycles of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) covered by their insurance. Of those, almost 54% dropped out without completing their allotted cycles. The main reason behind this: psychological burden. Many stated that the clinics in question were poorly organized, had stressful “assembly line” treatments or felt they received minimal information regarding the procedures.

Additionally, another article published in Fertility and Sterility by Peterson, et al. has demonstrated that stress impacts semen samples; therefore, decreasing the stress of both partners during treatment could increase the pregnancy success rates for providers.

These two factors alone indicate it is in fertility clinics’ best interest to invest in improving the patient experience during treatment.

So, what can we do to provide a better experience for patients?

Communication should be one of the key objectives. It is easy for patients to feel overwhelmed by the plethora of information they receive, including the price tag involved. Several insurance plans do not cover fertility treatment, so many patients are paying out of pocket for treatment. Other than a house, car, or college, fertility treatment could be the biggest expense of a patient’s life. They should feel like they are receiving the individual experience and attention they are paying for; patients need to know that their voices are heard.

Before college, I used to work in professional theater. When in a production, actors may perform the same show six to ten times a week for months or even years. The best actors go into each performance with the same energy as their first time. Even though this may be their hundredth time performing, it is the audience’s first time seeing the show and they paid just as much for their ticket as those on opening night; the same rings true for fertility treatment. For the clinic, this could be their thousandth IUI or IVF, but this is most likely the first experience that a patient may have in the fertility world. They are going to have questions and they want to be able to get those answers quickly and accurately.

By providing great patient experiences, practices gain patient loyalty and will become the provider of choice in their area. When a patient has a good experience, they spread the word, which will bring in even more patients. Word of mouth is the most inexpensive and typically the most effective type of marketing there is. Practices that provide a quality experience will attract new patients. Also, if a clinic can prevent just one couple from discontinuing their IVF treatment by focusing more on the patient experience, they would gain thousands of dollars in revenue a year.

Going through the process of infertility treatment will never be easy, but by focusing on the patient experience, we can make it better.