Before you go to a
restaurant, you check on Yelp for reviews. Before you go to a hotel you check
on TripAdvisor, and for products, Amazon. There's even a special review site
for handymen and local service people—Angie's List—to help you weed out the
wheat from the chaff.
Unfortunately, from the
patient's perspective at least, there aren't great sites for reviewing medical
professionals. Yes, there's Healthgrades, Vitals and ZocDoc, but when it comes
to finding a doctor, most people seem to want personal recommendations. (Not
that I blame them—it's not the same as finding a good place to eat.)
And that's especially true
when searching for a fertility doctor. As I wrote about here, I found mine by
word of mouth. But it's not easy. So many people still keep their fertility
struggles a secret—it's not like they're posting on Facebook and Twitter "Need
an I.V.F. doc rec" like they would for, say, a chiropractor or dentist.
Until now, that is. A new website aims to crowdsource fertility
reviews— but only from former or current patients and their partners to ensure
authenticity. Fertility IQ aims to build "the first truly comprehensive
and trustworthy database of fertility doctor reviews."
When it comes to finding a doctor, you need someone
who will be successful—i.e., help you have a baby (and that's why there are
national statistics)—but there are many other factors that are important too. For example, are you
the type of person who needs to know as much detail as possible about a
treatment? That might influence the doctor you go with. One of my doctors
seemed annoyed at my constant questions. But the one who finally succeeded, a reproductive immunologist, gave me so much detail I felt like I could write a book on it.
I could have ended up at my 10th doctor three years sooner.
But that's only one of the questions the website survey asks.
It also wants to know if you prefer your doc to be blunt, delicate or
somewhere in between (I think I prefer delicate), and if the clinic made mistakes
on your medication, failed to call in a prescription, didn't
inform you about changes to your protocol or didn't give you the right
information. It also asks how you
communicate with them, how soon you can see your doctor, how much insurance
covers your procedures and meds, and if the billing department was easy to
In other words, questions you wish you'd known the answer to
before you committed to a particular clinic.
The website was started by Jake and Deborah, a young Bay Area-based couple who
started fertility treatments three years ago. After going to multiple doctors in
multiples states, they realized that finding the right fertility doctor is an
"extremely personal choice," but the process is "lonely and intimidating,"
hindered by the lack of "credible" information.
I can relate. My insurance didn't really cover consultations,
which ran between $300-$800, so I couldn't really meet too many docs without
committing to one. But what if I had known that one fertility clinic was more like
a factory, another was only for women with really traditional problems
(blocked tubes or advanced age, and not multiple factors like mine), and another
had a doctor with the personality of a postage stamp or a billing department that
constantly screwed up your finances?
I wouldn't have stayed at that "factory" for so long,
thinking it was only me who felt like we were cattle, or at the second one, depressed
by their kind but slow method, which produced less than optimal results. I could
have ended up at my 10th doctor three years sooner.
That's why I'm going to fill out the survey. And I hope
anyone who has done fertility treatments—successfully or not—will too. Crowdsourcing our experiences
will help others avoid the mistakes we ourselves have made in the past and
prevent others from making them in the future.