4 key considerations Markham Fertility uses when making innovation and investment decisions

Innovation and investment decisions that make fertility care better

Pictured above (left: Dr Eduardo Hariton, REI, Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, middle: Dr Chan, REI, Co-Owner, & Scientific Director, Markham Fertility Centre, right: Alexandra Busto, partner at Nixon Peabody LLP).

On February 13 and 14, 2024, Dr Meivys Garcia, Mark Evans and I (Dr. Chan) represented Markham Fertility Centre at the Reproductive Health Innovation Summit in Boston.

I was invited to join a panel discussion with two bright and upcoming experts in reproduction and law. Dr Eduardo Hariton is a fertility specialist at Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area, and is a VP of Strategic Initiatives at US Fertility, one of the largest fertility networks in the United States. Alexandra Busto is a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP, and an expert in acquisitions and mergers in the IVF sector.

Fertility, innovation and investment

The theme of the panel was to discuss prioritization of innovation and investment, in an era of IVF clinics being consolidated by private equity. I thought I would share some of my talking points and reflections from the event.

The IVF industry is at an inflection point right now and there is a convergence of rapid innovation and disruptions in the financial models behind care delivery. Innovations in automation, artificial intelligence and lab technology have the potential to launch us into a new era of safer and better IVF. However, the costs of technology and delivery of fertility care are ever-rising due to inflationary pressures. Superimposed on this is the entry of private equity into the industry. The majority of fertility clinics in the US and Canada have partnered with private equity, and the emphasis on profitability has set up a natural (innovation and investment) tension between focusing on profits vs spending on innovation.

MFC is in a fortunate position. Being a physician owned and led clinic, we do not have to answer to investors when spending on innovation and technology. We are guided by evidence, and answer only to ourselves and our patients. However, as costs of new technology are often transferred on to the patient, we still have to be cost-effective and judicious. As Scientific Director, I use the following 4 guiding principles when deciding whether an innovation is “worth it” for the clinic and the patient.

  1. The innovation serves a need and solves a problem
  2. The innovation improves safety
  3. The innovation improves access to care
  4. The innovation is ethical

The innovation serves a need and solves a problem

Does the innovation move the needle on IVF outcomes? It is not enough for an innovation to “look good” or “sound good” or “be on trend” (sorry AI) – it should make a measurable difference in helping our patients achieve healthy live births.

The innovation improves safety

Is the innovation safe and/or does it make what we do safer? IVF is now 46 years old, and over 8 million babies can be attributed to this technology. In this now mature industry, mistakes should happen next to never, and technologies that help us get to that goal should be prioritized.

The innovation improves access to care

Does the innovation make what we do more accessible? Affordability is THE biggest barrier to access to fertility care. Innovations such as automation that can reduce human involvement have the potential to reduce costs and improve access for patients.

Markham Fertility Centre recently launched a partnership with humm Canada to make fertility financing more accessible. Learn more about this program, and apply if you are interested – the process is easy.

The innovation is ethical

Just because a technology exists does not mean it is the “right” thing to do. For example, genome editing technologies such as CRISPR have stirred up controversy in the field and have extreme ethical repercussions that cannot be ignored.

Innovation and investment: conclusion

In concluding, with innovation and investment, of course, not every innovation will score 100 points on every criteria but as a clinic, we are guided by this compass in discussing and choosing innovations wisely, always with the goal of caring for our patients as effectively, safely, cost-efficiently, and ethically as possible. Innovation and investment matters at MFC.

Thanks to Women’s Health Innovation Series for hosting a great summit on reproductive heath. Great talks and some interesting ideas on the horizon for reproductive medicine.