Infertility can be an emotional rollercoaster. Millions journey through it1, but it's seldom discussed. It can be a lonely path to tread, often accompanied by guilt and even depression. It’s important to remember that on even the darkest of days, nobody is alone on this journey. We are in it together.
This European Fertility Week, I want to remind people that the support network extends far beyond their loved ones. The entire fertility circle stands behind hopeful parents. Behind every treatment cycle lies a long road of innovation to maximize chances of conception, from clinicians on the front line to companies and researchers in the lab designing and testing novel fertility therapeutics and technologies. As an industry, we have a responsibility to share our expertise and listen to others so that we can improve our work together to better the lives of our patients, whatever it takes.
If we’re to truly help, we need to listen. At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany we recently ran a small “straw-poll” study where we asked some of our valued customers around the world how the industry could best work with them to improve the fertility journey in the future.
Our research showed that nearly half (48%) of doctors working in fertility wanted to better support their patients by helping them to stay positive through their fertility journey.2
This same piece of research highlighted that 38% of fertility clinics believed that novel data management approaches and digitalization offer the biggest opportunity for the fertility care sector in 2020.2 We are experiencing an unprecedented explosion of innovation with exciting technological advances emerging faster than ever. As a result, we need to ensure doctors can reap the benefits of this to help them better support patients – whilst ensuring that emotional support remains front and center to encourage positivity throughout the highs and lows of treatment.
It’s not surprising that so many fertility clinics were interested in novel data management approaches and digital health solutions. The advent of digital health invites us to imagine a new era of medicine.
It’s one where real-time data and tracking tools let embryologists get to know their lab like never before. Can you imagine an embryologist in the future monitoring their laboratory from the comfort of their couch? Well, this isn’t so farfetched after all. In fact, this technology already exists.
Digital health solutions promise to increase treatment insights and allow Assisted Reproductive Treatment (ART) events to be automatically synchronised across systems and software. Industry needs to welcome such advances and commit to helping clinicians embrace them in the years to come. Digital health will help us all to take on infertility armed with more information and more data, but if we are to truly bring innovation to life and ensure prospective parents are the real winners, we need to be in it together to listen, understand and implement.
The world is changing. It is on us to seize our opportunity and shape the future together for those living with infertility. According to our aforementioned survey, many clinicians feel that in five years, the trend towards having children later in life may drive the need for treatment of infertility. Understanding the potential issues and devising strategies to overcome them will be key in preparing for additional demand and will require us to pull down existing barriers and collaborate beyond competitive, institutional and international boundaries.
Collaborating doesn’t just mean working together. It also means learning together to shape the future. It means being prepared to partner and share our knowledge beyond the confines of organizations. Therefore, we at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany collaborate with multiple different institutions and companies across international borders to explore new innovations in ART – going beyond boundaries every day.
Infertility is a heavy burden to carry alone, yet behind every person trying for a baby there is an extensive community of experts. Industry can best work to tackle infertility when we are in it together, innovating beyond company, organizational, competitive and institutional boundaries.
When all is said and done, it is hopeful parents, desperately trying to conceive, who are the reason we work hard to find solutions. We are in it together to support them whatever it takes. Hear from Kathrin about what her fertility journey meant for her here.