This Couple's New Site Could Change The Way We Talk About Infertility

Photo: Courtesy of Jake and Deborah Anderson-Bialis.
Update: Two months after the launch of FertilityIQ, we caught up with the founders, Jake and Deborah Anderson-Bialis, to see how it's going. So far, they say they've been stunned by the response. "We've received an incredible amount of feedback from past patients saying that they wish this existed years ago, and from current patients, who are using this to direct treatment," says Deborah in an email to R29.

But the couple recognizes this means they need to continue to make their service even more useful. "We also now realize we need to help educate patients about the various issues they'll face in choosing a doctors, and the choices they may need to make once in treatment," Deborah explains. "We don't take a nickel from the clinics, so we're in an important position to offer insight that is 100% objective."

Continue to our original story below to learn more about the project.

This article was originally published on February 17, 2016.

Even when they go well, fertility treatments can be expensive, stressful, and isolating. And that's after you've been able to navigate the maze of finding the care you need. As Jake and Deborah Anderson-Bialis discovered, you won't exactly find a wealth of information out there to guide you through the process. So they created FertilityIQ, a site that aims to lift the veil on the often intimidating path of fertility procedures by creating a place where real patients can review doctors. A Yelp for fertility clinics, if you will.

Throughout the couple's frustrating journey with fertility procedures — which involved two doctors, $20,000 down the drain, and a trip to the ER — they felt frustrated by the serious lack of accurate, unbiased data out there about fertility clinics. "After that experience, we were really motivated to make the system better and more transparent," says Deborah, "so that future patients wouldn't have the issues that we had."

Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions against using its data on clinics' success for comparison purposes (as if you'd ever want it for anything else). It wasn't always easy for the couple to share their struggles with friends, either: "[Our experience] was hard to grapple with emotionally and financially," says Jake. "Oftentimes you do kind of go into isolation, even if other people know, which made it all the more painful for us to deal with."
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We were motivated to make the system more transparent so that future patients wouldn't have the issues we had.

Deborah Anderson-Bialis
The main function of the site, which launches today, is to collect crowdsourced reviews and data on fertility clinics and doctors across the country. A few other sites have cropped up recently to tackle the dearth of experiential information in healthcare: For instance, Iodine compiles reviews of medications from people who've actually taken them. And of course, there's ZocDoc, which offers in-depth doctor reviews from verified patients.

But FertilityIQ's "assessments," as the site refers to them, are specific to the infertility challenge. They're broken down in meticulous detail, including factors like a doctor's response time, a billing office's efficiency, and whether patients felt they were treated more like "a human" or "a number." Doctors and clinics get an overall rating, as well as broken-down scores in each of these specific areas.

Reviewers are encouraged to give a lot of detail in their assessments, too, because the fertility process is so individual and depends on things like your age, ethnicity, and the procedure you're getting. A user may be more likely to trust the review of someone who shares a similar experience and goals. "They're really commenting on who they are as people," explains Jake, "so we have context for their diagnosis, medical preferences, and personal preferences."

Most importantly, perhaps: reviewers can choose to go through a verification process for their assessment by providing documentation like a bill. Although not every reviewer follows through, many do, and each verified review is marked with a check icon.

They're really commenting on who they are as people.

Jake Anderson-Bialis
Currently, the couple says they have about 400 clinics and 1,000 providers accounted for and reviews "in the thousands." But now that the site has officially launched, they're excited to see those numbers increase.

Although crowdsourced data may have its drawbacks (people who choose to review may be the most extreme cases, positive or negative, for example), when it comes to nuanced healthcare decisions, it can be helpful to hear what those who've gone before you have to say — especially when it's not guaranteed that you'll know someone personally who can give you a good recommendation.

FertilityIQ's next steps will be to branch out into egg donation, sperm donation, and surrogacy services. "But we're never going to stop trying to gather as many assessments as possible [for fertility clinics]," says Jake. "We'll [expand our services] once we feel like we've made real progress with this core specific issue, which is finding the best doctor for you."
Image: Courtesy of FertilityIQ.
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