Trying to find a suitable IVF clinic abroad takes a lot of research and time. Fortunately, we have a shortcut for you! Here is the webinar in which Aleksander Wiecki, Chief Marketing Officer at IVF Media, helps you to narrow your choice by giving you tips about the most important factors to focus on, questions you need to ask and tricks that IVF clinics use to attract patients.
At the beginning of his presentation, Alexander admits that his real aim is to show patients how not to choose the best IVF clinic abroad. Why does he stress the word ‘not’? Simply because there is no such thing as the ‘best IVF clinic’. Every patient is different, they have their own medical issues and various expectations so it is impossible to choose one clinic that suits all. Additionally, there is no easy and ready recipe for finding the clinic tailored to our specific needs either.
The most important conclusion that Alexander and his team draw from conversations with IVF patients is that the latter do not ask right questions while searching for the clinic they would like to have their treatment at. At this point, Alexander uses a quotation from HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority), the national body that stands behind IVF clinics in the UK:
A great fertility clinic isn’t just one that can give you effective treatment, it’s one with compassionate staff, clear pricing, seamless administrative processes and exceptional emotional support.
The quotation perfectly summarises what patients should indeed focus on in order to assure themselves of a safe and satisfying treatment experience. However, the reality is generally far less than ideal.
Alexander says there are 3 most common aspects of treatment that patients pay attention to before deciding on an IVF clinic abroad. The price is the issue they are mostly interested in. Secondly, it is the treatment time, and thirdly – a successful outcome. However, these three things rarely go together. According to Alexander, it is impossible to find a clinic that supports patients in all these parameters equally. If you’re looking for low-cost treatment, it surely won’t be successful and quick. If your aim is short treatment, it is not going to be cheap and satisfying. If, on the other hand, you are interested in the positive outcome (meaning ‘live birth’), your treatment will neither be cheap nor done quickly.
Alexander goes on to explain in detail the most popular questions asked by patients. While analysing them, he wants us to understand why most of these questions are being asked in a wrong way. The first question is ‘What are your success rates?’. It is understandable from a patient’s point of view but one has to realise that success rates are not comparable in any way. Different clinics will always present them differently. For example, you never know what age group they use or how many patients they calculate their rates on – is it 100% or maybe just 50%? There might be cumulative success rates, success rates per embryo transfer or per whole IVF cycle. They can represent only fresh transfers or both fresh and frozen ones.
There are many factors that may influence the treatment outcome. Additionally, there is always marketing involved – it is in every clinic’s business to present itself in the most beneficial way. Fortunately, Alexander has some helpful advice on how to approach the subject of success rates. What every patient should do is to present their own medical history and ask about their own individual prognosis for successful treatment. That makes a whole lot of difference as in this way, you are not asking about the average for all clinic’s patients anymore – you’re asking about the average for patients with a similar case to yours. Such an approach obliges the clinic to prepare a more personalised offer and show if they really care for patients – thus, helping them immensely to narrow their choice.
While the average success rates presented by IVF clinics are often misleading, there are some more reliable sources that allow us to compare treatment outcomes between different destinations (and thus, the clinics). One of them is ESHRE (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology), the biggest fertility organisation in Europe that collects data from national regulators for IVF treatment. ESHRE publishes annual reports (with a 4-year delay) with the IVF success rates as an average per country. Although Alexander does not think ESHRE reports are especially of great help to patients (again, it is difficult to determine the basis for calculating success rates in each country), they are the only source of comparable success rates in Europe. What is more, they lead to one very important conclusion:
IVF treatment outcomes in different destinations are, in general, not very much different.
Alexander also presents one useful tool for patients interested in their own success rates. It is an online calculator by SART (The Society for Reproductive Technology) for predicting individual chances for the positive outcome of IVF treatment. SART is the main national body regulating IVF treatment in the United States. They have collected data from nearly 500,000 cycles of therapy performed to more than 320,000 women in the USA since 2006 and used it to create a calculator that helps patients understand their chances of having a live birth – based on their personal situation. Of course, it is impossible to show the exact values for each particular situation – not even the SART tool can do that. Thanks however to the huge database and well thought-out questionnaire (asking for information such as e.g. patient’s height, weight and diagnosis), it is more accurate than any IVF clinic has been able to forecast. The tool can be easily googled by using the terms ‘SART predictor’ or ‘SART calculator’.
The second most common question patients ask IVF clinics at the first contact is ‘What is the IVF or egg donation cost?’ According to Alexander, this is not the right way of thinking either. In fact, prices are as difficult to compare as success rates. It happens because every clinic has different treatment options on offer as well as hidden extra costs that patients are very often not aware of. At least – not before they start the treatment. At this point, Alexander presents the comparison of prices of IVF and IVF with donor eggs they created in the ‘IVF Abroad Guide’. Instead of presenting the average treatment costs per country, they showed price ranges (both minimum and maximum prices) in each of 8 IVF destinations in Europe (Spain, Czech Republic, Greece, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, Russia and North Cyprus). There are both cheaper and more expensive options to choose from. However, one should realise that the presented costs do not include add-ons (meaning additional tests, procedures and medications) or travel and accommodation expenses. What Alexander advises is to always ask clinics about the approximate IVF treatment cost for your own case – the one that will ensure the highest possibility of success. And again, as in case of success rates, the way the clinic responds to that request may say a lot about their professionalism and reliability. Only when they know more about our individual case, are they able to prepare a personalised treatment offer. This is what we all should look for when choosing the best IVF clinic abroad.
Apart from success rates and prices, patients want to know the length of their journey to parenthood. ‘How long does the treatment take?’ is the third most often question they ask IVF clinics. If you are starting your journey, this article explains IVF with donor eggs process step by step.
Alexander says it is a tricky one – from the clinic’s point of view the quicker means the better. But it is not the way patients should think at all. IVF treatment is a complex and complicated process that requires a lot of medical knowledge, detailed analysis and involvement on the doctors’ part.
At the end of the day, it is the quality of the treatment that is the most important – and not how short and fast it is. In Alexander’s opinion, the right way to approach the subject of the treatment duration is to inquire about the optimal solution for you. Only on the basis of your medical history and diagnosis is the clinic able to estimate how many times you will have to visit them personally.
Summing up, Alexander says there are three important things each patient should remember when looking for an IVF clinic abroad.
Additionally, the relationship between doctors and patients is of great significance. Alexander says that a great way to get a feel of it is to have an online consultation with a doctor before visiting the clinic personally. If during such a conversation, a doctor manages to win your trust, it is a good and promising first step of your future treatment together. Additionally, you do not have to travel few thousand kilometres to have a meeting in person – so you save your time and money. And this is always of great advantage in planning a costly and time-consuming process that IVF treatment undoubtedly is.
More information about IVF treatment abroad, the efficacy of IVF procedures and applicable IVF legislation in top European IVF destinations can be found in ‘IVF Abroad Guide’ created by Alexander and his team. The Guide is 98 pages comprehensive publication including the comparison of 10 popular destinations.
If you are seeking an IVF clinic abroad there are many resources you may use to find a clinic: