Why I Moved to the US to Build IVF Options
For those of you who haven’t read my earlier post I’ll give you a quick recap – a devastating break-up and medical diagnosis in my early 30s led me to start IVF Options in Australia.
The platform which provided transparent IVF price and quality information immediately resonated with patients, but market size and consolidation limited growth. I loved helping people on a daily basis and wanted to make a bigger impact so I began researching other countries that could benefit from what I was building.
I visited the US on two business trips to meet with reproductive endocrinologists, clinic managers, pharmaceutical companies, finance companies, nurses, and patients across the country to learn about fertility treatment in America.
I learned that the average cost of IVF in the US is $17,000 and that 74% of Americans do not have fertility benefits (meaning they need to pay for it themselves). Comparatively, all Australians have access to bulk billed (or Medicare sponsored) IVF cycles with about $1,000 out of pocket cost per cycle. Zooming out, it makes sense that utilization of IVF in Australia is 300% higher than it is in the US.
Price was the biggest factor hindering accessibility, and as such, I set out to build a much more comprehensive search engine that would allow American patients to compare IVF prices, success rates, patient reviews, clinic locations and doctors. Again it resonated immediately with patients, but in operating, we learned that the problem of high prices went deeper than just transparency.
The biggest challenge that the US fertility industry is facing over the next decade is that demand for fertility treatment is far outpacing supply of reproductive endocrinologists. Fertility treatment is growing at 16% CAGR, while supply of specialists remains stagnant with approximately 1,100 doctors – 44 graduating and a similar number retiring each year.
If left unfixed, the specialist bottleneck will further drive up IVF prices and patient wait times.
Our solution: To have general practitioners test and diagnose patients over telehealth, prior to seeing a fertility specialist. This reduces specialist time per cycle and triples the amount of patients they can treat in the same time period– alleviating the bottleneck, and allowing patients to get tested in a faster and more affordable way.
As I was doing all of this research it was also at a pivotal moment in my personal life: my 35th birthday.
For anyone who knows about fertility, 35 marks the age when your fertility starts to significantly decline – the biological clock starts going off, so to speak.
Now to paint the picture of my personal life since starting IVF Options in Australia, in those 3 years, I moved across the world, mended my broken heart, went on a self-healing journey and worked remotely from multiple cities during COVID. When I first got the news that my mild dysplasia had healed, I thought that I was in the clear, and would be trying to get pregnant the old fashioned way soon.
So now I’m 35, single, a new resident of the US and time-poor as I build IVF Options. In the process of trying to help others, I kind of let myself fall by the wayside.
While our platform has IVF prices, I was terrified to go into a clinic to get the mystery bill for testing, and moreover, I didn’t want to take time off work in the middle of the day. Also, because of my experience, I was worried that I’d be shamed for not freezing my eggs earlier.
My options for getting tested were either an at-home finger prick test which would display my results in a dashboard, or waiting months and potentially spending thousands of dollars to meet with a fertility specialist. Kind of like Goldilocks, neither felt quite right.
I thought to myself, there has to be a better way. So, we built the first virtual fertility clinic that provides testing and results via telehealth in just 2 weeks, for a third of the cost of going into a clinic. You can order your tests and review online with a doctor for just $150 with any valid health insurance.
How does in-home fertility testing work?
- We run an eligibility check to see if your insurance covers testing. We accept all major insurance, and are then able to get you booked in for testing.
- We send lab technicians to your home or work to collect male and female blood tests. For advanced tests such as ultrasound or HSG, we provide generic referrals that you can take to any imaging centre.
- Once the results are back in about 1 week, we schedule a virtual consultation online with a doctor to review your test results and discuss your treatment options.
- If you’re recommended to get IVF, IUI or egg freezing, we can then help you find a local fertility clinic to undergo treatment.
For patients like myself, knowing what the cost will be upfront and not having to take time off work in the middle of my day was really important. Knowledge is power and being able to make an informed decision without feeling pressure is the first step in my fertility journey.