Two things are rarely talked about in healthcare: 1) human errors, and, 2) candor.
I started Kindbody five years ago because I wanted to fix the broken healthcare system, specific to fertility. Costs kept rising and the separation of those who could afford to build a family and those who could not – for both the individual and the employer – was becoming wider. We wanted the patient experience to trump everything else – proving that you can have a premium healthcare experience without paying a premium price tag – and that started with building an undaunted, kick ass team with world-class technology.
As a patient 15 years ago, I was unaware of any potential mistakes in IVF. Like most, I thought IVF was fail-proof and error-free. I knew a lot of women who had conceived through IVF so it never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be successful, much less that there was potential for a mistake. This sentiment is shared by many of my colleagues who have experienced infertility themselves, like our CEO, Annbeth Eschbach, and is well understood by our Chief Executive Physician, Dr. Angie Beltsos.
Now, we know. We know mistakes can happen and humans are not infallible and we, as patients, shouldn’t expect them to be. At Kindbody, our labs have a 0.2% incident rate (where errors occur) – one of the lowest in the industry – by using technology and processes which means that 99.8% of the time, no errors occur – something we’re incredibly proud of.
The question is, if a mistake happens, what does the doctor do? I’m proud that our doctors are candid and tell the patient the truth, rather than hide any mistake made by a human in the lab. I’d want the same if I were the patient. So, when a recent Bloomberg story published that one of our doctors, “emerged with jarring news: the embryo that the clinic had been storing had been mislabeled”, I’m both sorry and proud simultaneously. I’m sorry that we made a mistake, but proud that our doctor was forthcoming. I’m also proud that we’ve raised sufficient capital to build Kindbody into a game-changing “buzzy VC + celeb-backed fertility startup” which allows us to invest in technology to mitigate any errors, like mislabeling, that can happen in an IVF lab. Such technology includes RI Witnessing which barcodes sperm, egg and embryos and tracks them all the way through the lab to help ensure the right embryo goes into the right patient – as it did in this case. We also biopsied the embryo to ensure its genetic material and it came back aneuploidy, which meant it was abnormal and would likely have not have been transferred anyway. So, we didn’t have to be honest, but we were. The outcome would have been the same – an unsuccessful IVF cycle which unfortunately happens about one-third of the time in even the best IVF clinics, including our own.
Are you honest even when you don’t have to be? I feel immense pride for the integrity of our team. And, I see it on the faces of our doctors, it pains them just as much to deliver bad news as it is for the patient to hear it.
I should also address the other accusation by the reporter. I can emphatically say that there has never been a flood in any Kindbody clinic. In both our Atlanta and Santa Monica facilities, the buildings from which we lease space experienced leaks and less than 5 gallons of water impacted our respective locations. Most importantly, neither patient care nor patient tissue was at risk – and, again and as always – we were transparent with our patients and fortunate to have partner clinics where we could easily relocate care for our patients.
We’re grateful to our enterprise customers and benefits brokers and consultants who have championed our fertility-benefit solution from day one. They understand that while other solutions purport to control for outcomes, only those who deliver care actually do and are able to commit significant financial resources to the improvement of care and reduction in risks. We serve our enterprise customers with the same kindness and transparency as we do to our patients, with an unabashed commitment to increasing access for all.
We’re also grateful to the IVF industry as I just returned from our annual American Society for Reproductive Medicine fertility conference. I’m glad the article published the Friday prior to its start because it gave friends, who are often our competitors, the opportunity to approach me and lend their genuine support – and their cheerleading for us to never stop innovating and challenging the status quo. Because, mistakes happen in all labs across the country – and, all of us, as an industry, are committed to reducing errors. We’d love nothing more than IVF to be fail-proof and error-free.
At Kindbody, we remain committed to investing in technology and training to continue to reduce risk in the IVF lab, but with a 63% success rate, which is 47% higher than the national average, I’d say we’re doing a great job of it.
What we will never stop doing is being honest with our patients. Because as the patient, I’d want the same. I had multiple unsuccessful cycles, so I share the same heartbreak as our patients. Going through IVF stinks. And, I want our patients to know that we work tirelessly on their behalf to improve success rates and reduce risks, and always will.
About me: I am the proud Founder and Executive Chairman of Kindbody and have been an innovator in the fertility industry for over a dozen years. I have also benefited from IVF enabling my husband and me to have twin 12 year old boys which is, in part, the motivation behind my personal commitment to improving access to fertility care which drove home the significant costs we were able to bear, but many others are not.