By: 3 August 2023
Greater transparency for IVF treatment costs is needed now, says Bridge Clinic London

With the latest report on fertility treatment add-ons from the ESHRE revealing that clinics are implementing treatments with an unproven success rate into their care plans, Bridge Clinic London is calling for greater financial transparency in order to protect patients’ best interests.

Following the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology 39th Annual Meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, in July, the European Fertility Society finalised their latest white paper – Good practice recommendations for add-ons in reproductive medicine. The ESHRE report found that, whilst clinics go above and beyond usual fertility treatments to include ‘add-ons’ – optional additional procedures given on top of standard treatment plans – these additional costs are not proven to bring a higher success rate.

Growth in the use of add-ons in the UK was found to be the result of several factors; namely, the competitive nature of the UK fertility market, with approximately 60% of treatments funded privately and almost all NHS clinics treating a mix of privately and publicly funded patients. Additionally, patient expectations in the age of online information caused an increase in demand, even if medically the treatments are yet to be proven.

“The time for greater transparency from fertility clinics is now,” says James Barr, Managing Director of Bridge Clinic London. “Patients need a more accurate picture of the services and treatments they are opting into, and it is the responsibility of clinical teams to provide this – and especially not to mislead patients for their own financial gain.

“The IVF journey can be an emotional and arduous one for patients already, so ensuring patient interests are at the forefront of a curated care plan should be a priority. Some clinics are undoubtedly just looking to invest in the competitive nature of the fertility treatment market for their own financial gain rather than for patient interests. But the majority of clinics across the board still need to be more transparent about treatment costs, and only employ evidence-based add-on options for the sake of patient wellbeing.”

Barr highlights that patient expectations for IVF processes can be easily swayed, due to the intense and sometimes desperate nature of the need for fertility treatment. “Patients may feel backed into a corner when it comes to their available options for starting a family. It is an already stressful scenario without the added misinformation that they might pick up from unproven sources. Transparency and professionalism are crucial at every stage of the treatment process.”

“The last thing clinical professionals should be doing is trying to provide false hope through expensive add-on treatments that may not even be proven to work effectively. Fertility care should not be an industry that preys on the desperate for financial gain, and thus patients should absolutely research their available options to ensure they go with a clinical professional that is both affordable and high quality in their offering.”

Barr additionally agrees with the need for a culture change. “As healthcare providers, it is our responsibility to lead an open conversation about treatment add-ons. Not only with how consensus statements should guide medical professionals in the UK but also between patients and their care providers to ensure all information is given accurately and patients can make secure, informed decisions in a safe environment.”