The following guest post was contributed by Gabrielle Heilman, BSN, MS, RN, Patient Care Specialist at Fairtility, a healthtech company advancing IVF treatment through the power of transparent AI for the betterment of clinicians and their patients. Heilman has nearly two decades of experience in nursing, specializing in women’s health. As a co-founder of MOMtility, Heilman has provided personalized guidance to many patients undergoing long-term fertility treatment to achieve a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Nurses have distinct roles as patient advocates, educators, and as the link between patients and other healthcare professionals. We prioritize patient well-being, do our best to establish trusting relationships, advocate for patients’ rights, and provide education about health conditions, treatments, and self-care. Nurses are always looking for ways to improve the patient experience, and ultimately to improve patient outcomes and quality of life.
Fertility nursing presents unique challenges due to the specialized nature of fertility care, including emotional and psychological issues related to infertility, loss, grief, and the complexities both of the fertility treatments themselves, and the diagnoses that patients may face. We see first-hand the emotional challenges and rollercoaster experiences prospective parents go through as they navigate the world of infertility and IVF treatments.
In a recent survey of women undergoing IVF, the primary issue identified was related to communication with their IVF team. This encompassed various problems such as inconsistent communication, lack of transparency, and insufficient understanding. As patients seeking IVF treatment are often overwhelmed and distressed, they may not always fully comprehend the information provided to them, or be able to process it all, highlighting an opportunity to improve communication.
When integrated into fertility care, AI can provide new tools that support our communication with patients, offering explainable details and transparency to facilitate patient involvement and empowerment. This integration will inevitably assist in providing more personalized care, reduce stress, and improve the communication and overall outcomes.
The Emotional Toll of Infertility and IVF Treatments
The emotional toll on patients undergoing IVF is significant. In fact, one of the most common reasons patients report that they drop out of the process is related to the psychological burden and stress. From the initial diagnosis of infertility to the multiple rounds of treatments, the process can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing.
As nurses, we feel a great sense of responsibility and duty to provide compassionate care and support to patients throughout the entire fertility journey, and to seek out the best opportunities and tools to facilitate that goal.
AI now presents an opportunity to assist fertility nurses in providing patients with greater transparency during their IVF journey, which in turn can also provide patients with a greater sense of control. Algorithms trained on millions of data points collected from tens of thousands of embryos are now able to provide real-time insights in the embryology lab as embryos grow and develop. Embryologists now have thousands more data points to look at when evaluating embryo quality.
This means that as the care team gains more insight, the nurses can in turn offer this visibility to and communicate it with the patients. The increased access and transparency into a part of the process that is generally more hidden, can lead to a more positive and empowering experience for patients going through the IVF journey. When patients have more knowledge, and feel that they have more control, it leads to greater feelings of involvement and ownership of the process.
AI-Guided Recommendations for Tailored Treatment Plans
As fertility nurses, we are responsible for implementing tailored care plans that are optimized for each individual patient’s needs. The integration of AI tools can assist by providing enhanced embryo quality data in real time. Nurses may also have additional insight into embryo implantation probability enabled through AI-driven predictive modeling. This can allow for more collaborative and data-informed conversations with patients to guide treatment decision-making. Utilizing AI-derived insights can help nurses and the broader fertility care team to develop personalized care plans that increase the chances of successful outcomes.
In essence, these AI-powered decision support tools can provide fertility care professionals with strong data-based recommendations and guidelines for patient care that ensure patients receive consistent and appropriate care throughout their IVF treatment cycle.
Streamlining Coordination and Shedding Light on Unknowns
AI-powered tools can help improve communication and collaboration between different members of the care team, including fertility nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals for greater efficiency in coordination of care. Along with efficient care coordination, accurate and streamlined documentation is critical for continuity of care. AI offers the ability to automate and optimize various aspects of fertility care, improving efficiency in workflow for fertility nurses.
One of the major challenges we encounter is the inability to determine the cause when a treatment is unsuccessful. The IVF process is characterized by various uncertainties, including success rates, complications, emotional impact, and financial burden. Additionally, the anxious waiting period between a patient’s egg retrieval and embryo transfer is filled with trepidation. “Will I get any good quality embryos? How many will I be able to freeze? Am I going to have to go through another retrieval process?” The potential of AI in comprehending the biological processes that result in diverse outcomes is enormous, enabling us to obtain more definitive answers that were previously unattainable.
AI provides interpretable data that offers transparency throughout IVF to optimize treatment protocols and hopefully minimize the need for multiple cycles of treatment. By providing greater visibility into patients’ biological data, the transparency provided by AI can help to alleviate some of the emotional stress that often accompanies the process, enabling prospective parents to make more informed decisions about their journey to parenthood alongside, and in collaboration with their care teams.
Human Connection in Fertility Care Enhanced With AI Insight
The integration of AI into IVF care has immense potential to benefit both fertility nurses and the patients we care for. AI tools can assist in personalizing patient education, predictive modeling, evidence-based recommendations, and automation of various aspects of fertility care, as well as greater visibility into one’s journey. It’s important to keep in mind that AI doesn’t replace any of the IVF care team members, but it enhances and improves the services and standard of care they can provide.
As fertility nurses, we play such a crucial role in providing compassionate care to and supporting our patients throughout their IVF journey. In caring for our patients, AI is a valuable addition to our toolkit. If we can now leverage AI tools to enhance and streamline the care we provide, the combination has the potential to lead to improved outcomes and a more transparent process for all involved.
Combining AI and the human connection in fertility care can provide a more comprehensive and supportive approach to IVF treatment, and represents an exciting new frontier in healthcare, with the potential to transform the lives of millions of prospective parents around the world.