SINGAPORE, April 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Telemedicine that became a vital engagement tool between health professionals and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic is emerging as a welcome new treatment of choice among fertility clinics and couples striving for parenthood.
Patients seeking assisted conception services, such as IVF, are increasingly interacting by telephone and on-line with reproductive medicine doctors and nurses to make treatment choices and monitor test results.
Indonesian fertility specialist Professor Hendy Hendarto said telemedicine services were improving access and affordability of treatment among the 8 to 12 per cent of all couples of reproductive age who are living with infertility, which is defined as the failure to conceive after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse, or the inability to carry pregnancy to a live birth.
He is presenting data on the IVF telemedicine phenomenon to the 2022 Congress of the Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction (ASPIRE). The Congress in virtual format is linking scientists, clinicians, nurses and counsellors from more than 100 countries to address the obstacles facing couples striving for parenthood, and latest advances in infertility treatment, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.
Professor Hendarto, who is Chairman of the Indonesian Association for In Vitro Fertilisation, said the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a huge increase in virtual care to limit face-to-face exposure to the virus.
While COVID-19 restrictions are easing around the world, fertility clinics and their patients have found on-going benefits in telemedicine for key aspects of treatment that do not require direct contact with a fertility care provider.
“Telemedicine can be delivered in synchronous form in real time online video engagement between patients and physicians, or in asynchronous form via an electronic patient portal, emailing or text messaging,” Professor Hendarto said.
“There are many steps in an IVF journey including the initial consultation, laboratory tests and monitoring, ovarian stimulation, oocyte recovery, fertilisation, embryo transfer and luteal support to increase the success rate of implantation.
“Telemedicine can be used in consultation to discuss family forming goals, medical and family history and treatment options. It is an option to discuss the results of tests, reviews of treatment plans and financial considerations.
“Advances in technology are presenting new dimensions in telemedicine services in IVF treatment. For example, it is now possible for a patient at home to use an endovaginal probe to monitor outcomes of ovarian stimulation with results that can be uploaded electronically to discuss with their treating doctor.
“Such developments are empowering for patients many of whom report a higher sense of discretion in their treatment options.
“Telemedicine is particularly useful in areas where access to IVF clinics is difficult, and it is making treatment options easier and more affordable. Evidence is growing that telemedicine results in high patient satisfaction as a safe and efficacious tool, particularly to overcome geographic difficulties.
“For example, Indonesia has a population of 273 million people living on 17,000 islands over an area of 1.9 million square kilometres, but the 50 IVF clinics in this country are concentrated on Java Island.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indonesian Association for In Vitro Fertilisation restarted IVF services by prioritising telemedicine and this has been embraced by clinics and patients.”
Professor Hendarto said the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) had issued a joint statement declaring that reproduction is an essential human right that exists regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or country of origin.
He said infertility was a time sensitive impairment of reproductive capacity that worsens with age and that improved access to treatment, including emerging telemedicine services, was important for millions of couples world-wide.
“But while telemedicine in assisted reproduction is viewed as safe, affordable and effective, with pleasing patient satisfaction outcomes, it is important to progress with informed consent among couples seeking treatment,” he added.
The ASPIRE 2022 Congress in on-line format is running from 28 April to 1 May. For more information, go to www.aspire-2022.com
SOURCE Asia Pacific Initiative on Reproduction