Authors: A. Picou1, K. Silverberg2, M. VerMilyea1. (1Ovation Fertility, IVF Lab, Austin, U.S.A., 2Texas Fertility Center, Medical Director, Austin, U.S.A.)
Study question: Does patient access to time-lapse technology improve their cycle experience, or is it simply perceived as another add-on?
Summary answer: Patients reported increased satisfaction and transparency in IVF treatment after viewing videos of their embryos growing.
What is known already: It is widely assumed that in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments are costly and stressful for intended parents. During an IVF cycle, patients are often provided with minimal information regarding their embryo growth milestones, and no static images of embryos for their personal retention. Time-lapse technology provides a method to visualize embryos continuously without disruption to the embryo’s growth cycle. Many time-lapse studies have focused on the potential benefits associated with non-invasive embryo selection, but very few have entertained the idea about how this technology could be used to improve patient engagement and education pertaining to their cycle.
Study design, size, duration: An anonymous survey was conducted which included 192 patients over 8 months. This survey study focused on responses of patients after viewing time-lapse videos from all of their embryos in culture. Embryo video updates were provided to the patients on Day 3 and Day 7 of embryo culture. Patients received two surveys: One prior to egg retrieval and a second after receiving all of their embryo culture videos at the completion of their cycle.
Participants/materials, setting, methods: Patients at a private IVF clinic were able to self-elect enrollment in the survey-study at the start of their cycle. Embryos were cultured in CSCM-NX (FujiFilm Irvine Scientific) in the Geri Time-Lapse incubator (Genea BioMedx) for up to 7 days. Development was monitored according to standard lab protocol and embryos were vitrified or biopsied accordingly. Patients were provided access to videos electronically with a brief summary and a follow-up phone call the following day.
Main results and the role of chance: 192 patients participated in the initial assessment survey at the start of their IVF cycle. 155 of these patients then partook in the survey at the completion of their cycle. 98% of patients completing the survey prior to their cycle felt that being able to view the videos of their growing embryos on Day 3 and Day 7 would add value to their IVF experience. Nearly all (97%) respondents felt that watching videos of their embryos in culture added transparency regarding embryo development and the laboratory environment. In the survey at the completion of the cycle, 96.8% (150) of participants reported that access to the videos added no additional stress to their IVF process. Very few (3.9%) reported that they were not happy with the quality of their videos. 142 (91.6%) participants reported that the embryo updates they received correlated with what they observed in their videos. Transparency in the laboratory through video viewing was reported by 93.5% of patients.
In the feedback/comments portion, many noted that they were grateful for the experience and enjoyed participating in the study. Despite such high reviews of the technology and personal involvement, there was marginal interest in paying a premium for this service.
Limitations, reasons for caution: Patient responses were limited to a yes or no answers. Patients agreed to complete the two questionnaires, but they were not required to do so. Since there was no enforcement of survey completion, this could account for some of the discrepancy in study start.
Wider implications of the findings
Patients noted that they enjoyed the experience of watching their embryos develop near-real-time, but did not feel it necessary for success. The majority stated that viewing the videos fostered their emotional attachment to their embryos. It is possible that the increased transparency leads to less anxiety and more patient trust.