MedCity Influencers, Artificial Intelligence, Health Tech

Scaling Up IVF: How to Increase ROI and Build a (Re)productive IVF Business

By investing in the value chain of IVF with the right AI solutions, investors can solve the access problem growing in the IVF space, help more people build their families, and achieve significant ROI.

Access is a critical factor in our modern world, with benefits across various domains. For scientists, data access is indispensable for conducting research and providing evidence. Similarly, social access allows individuals to participate in community activities, resulting in improved mental health and well-being. Economic access, such as education and employment opportunities, can improve standards of living. Access across all domains leads to numerous essential life benefits, with healthcare being a critical one; however, it is not universally accessible.

For fertility care, the barriers in access make family building unattainable for the many families seeking IVF, and the industry is facing a significant challenge in expanding access to IVF care across wider populations. Traditional wisdom ascribes the high cost of treatment as the impediment to access. However, the issue of access in fertility care is threefold: supply and demand, efficiency, and cost. While cost is a symptom of the access problem, it is not the cause.

IVF supply chain drives access challenge

The supply of embryologists and IVF practitioners is dwarfed in comparison to the exponential growth in demand the market has seen in prospective parents seeking IVF. Embryologists and IVF practitioners often experience work-related fatigue, stress, and burnout related to waning efficiency due to increasing volumes of cycles. Finally, dismal insurance coverage and a low persistent success rate of 30% on the first IVF cycle perpetuates the financial impediment.

The conventional solution of acquiring more equipment or personnel is inadequate, as there is a scarcity of embryologists and reproductive endocrinologists (REIs) relative to the increasing number of prospective parents seeking assisted reproductive technology. This has led to a further disparity in access to care.

Simply put, there is a supply issue in terms of providers of IVF care, who are further burdened by the administration, restricting their availability to handle an increase in cycles. This means that even if the cost of an IVF cycle were cut in half, there would not be enough clinicians, embryologists or clinics available to handle the demand. So, patients end up paying a premium for access to fertility care solely due to the intersections of supply-and-demand curves.

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Investment building in the growing IVF market

As the need for assisted reproductive treatments continues to increase, the business world has taken notice, prompting corporate enterprise consolidations of fertility clinics in recent years. From an investor standpoint, the IVF market presents an opportunity for expansion and growth due to an increase in the size of the IVF market, with global revenues projected to reach $41 billion by 2026, making it an attractive opportunity for investors looking for a profitable venture.  Investor bodies have come in to consolidate the market and make IVF a more (re)productive business.

However, they face significant scalability challenges due to diverse and proprietary clinic workflows, range of electronic medical record (EMR) systems, incubators, electronic witnessing systems, and PGT/genetic testing.  For example, if each clinic uses a different EMR system, it becomes difficult to assess the performance of each clinic to streamline operations. Moreover, the process of embryo selection is highly nuanced, and therefore, requires advanced technological assistive tools for a standardized protocol in the scalability equation.

The economies of scale that investors realize today are almost solely in purchasing power. By consolidating practices and becoming bigger, a group can negotiate better deals with suppliers and reduce costs. However, this is not enough in terms of ROI.

Scaling challenges in IVF business scalability

Scaling a business in the IVF space while maintaining the highest quality of care standards is a challenge. There needs to be some level of standardization and streamlining, yet this cannot be applied haphazardly. Efficiencies for their own sake will not lead to better outcomes for patients and will ultimately not lead to the ROI investors envision. Optimizing workflows through innovative approaches like AI-automation and implementing a digital chain of custody, along with making necessary organizational changes, is crucial in addressing the challenge and enabling broader widespread access to quality care.

The answer to this scalability challenge may be found in new AI technologies complemented by overall digitization of the clinic’s IT infrastructure. If applied where appropriate, AI-assisted IVF can enhance reliability, efficiency, compatibility, and reproducibility within established clinics.  AI can help investors in the space achieve scalability by introducing a consistent and structured approach that automates administrative processes on the operational side and ensures reliable and reproducible results in clinical practice. How?

  1. Automating grading and assessment – Systems that can automatically monitor and assess embryo development data so that embryologists do not have to perform manually, can save up to 30 percent of an embryologist’s time. This can significantly reduce the administrative burden that leads to burnout and frees up each embryologist to oversee more IVF cycles without adding any additional personnel.
  2. AI-guided quality qnalysis – From a clinical efficiency perspective, AI systems are proving valuable in enabling more consistent and accurate assessment of sperm, oocyte and embryo quality by embryologists, removing human subjectivity from the process. Utilizing AI to analyze embryos, sperm and oocytes makes a formerly subjective and varied assessment into a consistent and standardized process based on the analysis of millions of data points. More accurate analysis allows embryologists to consistently select the highest quality embryos, which may help reduce the number of IVF cycles required to achieve pregnancy and live birth.
  3. Abstracting and organizing data with a unified platform – There is wide differentiation of platforms and protocols used in IVF clinics. With various EMR systems and electronic witnessing systems, incubation systems (Time Lapse vs. benchtop) or whether clinics offer PGT testing, an AI platform can abstract all of this information, interpret and integrate the data in a unified platform. This means that clinicians do not need to concern themselves with reformatting information from one platform to another, significantly reducing administrative burdens.
  4. Streamlining communication – Building automation so that data flows freely from lab-to-fertility specialist-to-patient also paves the path for more open communication on treatment plans and progress. This ensures there is no compromise to patient care, and in fact, increases transparency in the process.

Creating efficiencies for impact

The development and delivery of innovative and effective fertility treatments have a significant impact on the lives of patients and families. For investors, the value chain in IVF represents a potential opportunity to invest in a growing and dynamic market. Moreover, investment in this market offers opportunities for diversification and optimal returns, as well as the satisfaction of investing in a socially responsible and high-impact sector. Most importantly, by investing in the value chain of IVF with the right AI solutions, investors can solve the access problem growing in the IVF space, help more people build their families, and achieve significant ROI.

Eran Eshed is the CEO & Co-Founder of Fairtility, the transparent AI innovator powering in vitro fertilization (IVF) for improved outcomes. He is a multidisciplinary business executive and serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience spanning numerous product and business domains. Eran was a Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer of Altair Semiconductor, a wireless chipset innovator acquired by Sony in 2016. Eran holds a BsCEE in Electronics Engineering from Tel Aviv University.

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