The Guide to choose the Right Fertility Clinic

Gaurav Malhotra, MD Medicover Fertility, ex CEO & MD Bourn Hall Clinic India has more than 10 years of experience in the IVF Market. He says that:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 13-19 million couples are infertile in India, and this can be a reason for the rampant increase in IVF clinics across the country. Most of these IVF clinics take advantage of the deep-rooted stigma associated with infertility and hence have been seen flouting ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines on ART (Assisted Reproductive Techniques). Moreover, some of the clinics lack proper equipment, an advanced IVF lab and there is an absence of skilled doctors and embryologists.

So, while choosing a fertility clinic for your treatment, you need to consider some important points. The truth is that people are often confused while choosing a fertility clinic. This is quite normal as they are not expected to know, which will be the right clinic for them. People usually go by recommendations from family/friends or book an appointment with the first clinic they hear about. But remember, the choice of a fertility clinic is an essential aspect when it comes to fertility treatment. Because the success rate of the treatment may depend on some factors related to the overall functionality of the fertility clinic.

So, what are the factors that impact a patient’s decision making?

Many factors will form part of a patient’s decision-making – the final decision will most likely be related to confidence and trust on the doctor, treatment protocol and the care provided by the clinic. Many patients go by reliable sources or referrals to IVF clinics that come from their General Physician or their Gynaecologist. But it is important to do your research as well. Some of the important factors while making decision are as follows:

Expertise of Doctors & Embryologists

Yes, the expertise of the doctors and the embryologists must always be considered before deciding on the IVF clinic. And a patient must always ask for the details of the treating clinicians and the embryologists before finalizing the clinic. Check for clinician qualification, years of experience, embryologist’s qualification, years of experience, lab infrastructure.

A clinician must have good academic background and skilled hands, so that good medical history and investigations reports can be analysed properly so that appropriate personalised treatment plan can be made. It is important to pick up exact cause of problem and clear action plan should be made.

Depending on the medical history, a patient may be recommended some advanced additional procedures like ICSI in lab so that it can increase the success rate of IVF. A doctor who is experienced will be able to guide about these procedures without any difficulty. Embryologist who work in lab should be adequately trained and should have expertise to do procedures like ICSI, freezing and maintain optimal conditions in lab.

Types of Fertility Treatment provided by the Clinic

This is another aspect that a patient needs to consider before finalizing a fertility clinic. The clinic must do all the testing and procedures in house. So that the patient need not go anywhere else for the procedures. If you are dealing with a relatively simple case like blocked tubes, or if you have more complex infertility issues like recurrent IVF failure, azoospermia, the fertility clinic must be able to handle all level of infertility issues.

One stop fertility solution is another important thing, a clinic should have facility of all investigations and infrastructure like blood tests, scanning, right lab, operation theatre, day care facility.

The Reputation of the Fertility Clinic

What are people saying about the fertility clinic? Judging a fertility clinic by its reputation is a great way to start your research on the clinic. A reputation cannot be built by itself; it relies on what people say. People talk based on their experience, so, if a clinic has a good reputation, you can trust that the clinic is providing an excellent service too.

The Success Rate of the Fertility Clinic

There is no better way to judge the quality of the service than by assessing the success rate of the fertility clinic. If a clinic has a high success rate, they are doing something right. You can be sure that they know what they are doing to be able to prove themselves in such a manner. IVF success is an excellent way to find out what kind of treatment a fertility clinic is giving its patients. When patients are visiting a clinic for IVF treatment and are leaving with a baby – this sums up everything that words are inadequate to describe.

The Infrastructure of the Fertility Clinic

Infrastructure also plays an important part when deciding the fertility clinic. Is the fertility clinic equipped to provide the kind of service a patient is looking for? Do they have the required infrastructure, an advanced IVF lab with all the latest equipment to carry on all the procedures? If they do not have the basic setup, it is quite likely that a patient is going to get the quality of medical treatment that they have expected. It is important to choose a fertility clinic that has modern up to date infrastructure. Some clinics are particular about imbibing the latest technology, and this says a lot about the kind of service they provide.

In-house availability of Doctors & Embryologists

The availability of medical staff should be one of the factors while choosing a clinic. As some clinics and hospitals have visiting consultants who are associated with many hospitals and so are not committed to any one place and are usually on the move. So, might be in case of emergency the attending doctor may not be available. Some clinics have a team of in-house doctors & embryologists who are committed to the clinic and the happenings therein. They are always available in case the patient has an emergency or a need. It is better to select a fertility clinic that has a team of in-house staff.

Facilities provided by a Fertility Clinic

The facilities and services offered by a fertility clinic matters to the patient. Everyone wants to have their treatment at a clinic that provides good facilities irrespective of the cost of the treatment. A personalized and a holistic treatment approach, compassionate patient care and high-quality patient service. There should be no compromise zone. Good hospital facilities reflect the kind of overall service that patients will receive once they start treatment.

Transparency in Treatment

Transparency is the most important factor. When a clinic is transparent, you feel that you can trust them. When a fertility clinic wants to hide stuff and keep it confidential, then you know something is not quite right. Most good reputed fertility clinics follow a total transparency policy and keep the couple updated about each procedure and how the patient is responding, test results and complications if any. When decisions are to be made regarding which course of treatment to follow, the patient should also put in his viewpoints. It is important to be a part of the decision making based on the doctor’s suggestion because it is the patient who would be paying for the treatment cost.

Transparency in Cost

IVF can be an expensive treatment, but a clinic should be able to give a rough estimate of how much it will cost. Some clinics are vague about the total cost and keep surprising with huge bills as the treatment progresses. The patient should also ask whether the cost of IVF medicines are included or not. This can catch a patient unaware and set them financially off balance. Some clinics give a total package cost and inform the patient regarding other expenses that might come up, giving a rough estimate of what they should be prepared for.

Other Factors

  • Regular audit, quality checks in lab and training of staff to keep up with the latest technology is another important factor contributing to high success rate and high-quality care.
  • Registration with ICMR is a must which is given only if centre has adequately trained medical staff and lab infrastructure.
  • PNDT licence for use of ultrasound.
  • Biomedical waste licence
  • Availability of trained Counsellors as IVF is an emotional roller coaster ride
  • High risk pregnancy follows up referral
  • Patient centric approach
  • Clinic website or patient information leaflets or instruction sheets, written info

Many clinics are seen flouting ICMR guidelines. To this Fertility experts say that until the ART bill is introduced for stringent measures, nothing can be done with the ICMR guidelines. ICMR Director General Vishwa Mohan Katoch says that the association of ICMR is in forming guidelines on accreditation of IVF clinics. As ART is a growing sector, so if the demand is there, people will undoubtedly seek private care. Moreover, being in this sector i have noticed many clinics offering unethical practises. So, it becomes of extreme importance to know about the clinic you choose for your fertility treatment.