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A new service for fertility patients

17 July 2017

By Juliet Tizzard

Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs, UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

Appeared in BioNews 909

The HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) has just launched its new website. With a fresh, clear design, the site aims to help patients navigate a stressful and often overwhelming journey by providing friendly, impartial information.

As the specialist regulator of fertility treatment, we want patients to have access to high quality care – and that means high quality information and preparation for treatment, as much as it means the treatment itself.

While our old website offered extensive information, we felt it could be more patient-friendly in its layout and content, and offer more services. With this in mind we set out to create a site that would provide the most up-to-date evidence in an easily accessible format.

The site is designed for patients, donors, and donor conceived people. It is part of a wider path through fertility information: from NHS Choices right through to voluntary organisations offering support. To get the message and presentation of the new website right, we consulted widely with both patients and professionals, carrying out extensive research beforehand and user testing during development. We wanted to understand audience needs, not only in terms of what information they want, but how they want to see it. For example, we found that almost half of the people visiting the HFEA site do so on a mobile device. With this in mind, the new website is easy to navigate from a phone, laptop or tablet.

Our website re-design gave us the opportunity to gather feedback and include additional features beneficial to both patients and clinics. One clear message from patients was that they struggle to make sense of success rates, and often find differentiating between clinics overwhelming. In response, we have completely redesigned the 'Choose a Fertility Clinic' service to emphasise two key things about selecting a clinic: that it's not all about birth rates and that statistics can be misleading.

Choose a Fertility Clinic helps people who already know they need specialist treatment to research clinics and view comparable information, without the statistics becoming a league table. It presents rounded information about the quality of the clinic’s service based on three measures: the inspection rating, a new patient rating, and whether the birth rate is consistent with the national average. We have produced an animation to help patients understand why these three measures are important, and what birth rates can and can’t tell them.

The new patient rating tool asks recent patients and donors to rate their clinic according to their experience of the care they received. Compassionate staff, involvement in decision-making, and clarity about pricing all impact upon patient experience. By rating a clinic on these important things, future patients can choose a clinic on more than one criterion. This in turn will encourage clinics to focus as much on patient care as they do on achieving high birth rates.

Our overarching aim for the website re-launch was to help patients and donors make better, more informed decisions, and to improve the quality of care they receive. We hope we have achieved that with our new site, and are keen for patients, clinics and partner organisations to let us know what they think: www.hfea.gov.uk

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