How data insights can strengthen the standards of fertility care

How data insights can strengthen the standards of fertility care

By Rob Thompson, Director of Digital Innovation, CooperSurgical
and Peter Bacher, Vice President of Key Accounts and Strategic Alliances, CooperSurgical


Over the last decade, the complex world of assisted reproduction technology (ART) has witnessed advancements in data acquisition and, with it, important information that could be beneficial for clinics to obtain an improved understanding of lab performance and clinical outcomes. In this article, Rob Thompson and Peter Bacher discuss the comprehensive role digital and automated integration can play in the standardization of clinics and how intelligent data collection can provide the metrics that may improve fertility outcomes.

Rob Thompson, Director of Digital Innovation at CooperSurgical and his team were instrumental in the origins and development of the RI WitnessTM system, which can detect and monitor activity in an IVF lab.

Peter Bacher, Vice President of Key Accounts and Strategic Alliances at CooperSurgical, has built his team from the ground up to work across departments to address the needs of clinics and clinic groups through the acquisition of fertility solutions.

We believe that patients have improved chances of achieving a successful pregnancy when industry supports reproductive medicine. Indeed, our collaboration with fertility clinics stems from our mutual belief that it is essential to update clinics with the newest innovations and latest IVF technologies. Our aim is to promote the most optimal environment for an efficient and productive clinic to ensure a smooth fertility journey for patients.

Historically, one of the biggest challenges for IVF clinics has been sample and patient identification; to be able to confirm that every step in the IVF process is double witnessed, documented and fully traceable. We started looking at Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and worked with many clinics to implement a system that is robust yet flexible enough to map their processes. This led us to the development of the RI Witness™ System.

…our collaboration with fertility clinics stems from our mutual belief that it is essential to update clinics with the newest innovations and latest IVF technologies.”

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RI Witness is designed to be adjustable and assimilate with the processes that are already going on within the clinic. A witnessing system does exactly that – it records the entire journey of gametes and embryos through the clinic. There are amazing insights you can uncover by looking at that data.

The challenge of change

When working with IVF clinics, there are some concerns that we observe. On one hand, clinics want to adopt a new technology such as a witnessing system into their current processes but, on the other hand, they are worried that implementing a new system will require time-consuming changes.

Therefore, we set up a steering committee, to design a roll-out plan and map out the process of how clinics can optimally implement RI Witness™. We always encourage sharing best practices mid-way through the process so clinics can first learn from using the witnessing system, and then we step back in to assist when necessary.

“We always encourage sharing best practices mid-way through the process so clinics can first learn from using the witnessing system, and then we step back in to assist when necessary.”

Our work with Shady Grove, a leading IVF Center of Excellence, is a great example of how a clinic group with a strong chain of custody ethos envisaged the long-term value in moving away from a traditional double manual witnessing system to adopting RI Witness™ as a quality management tool. With regularly scheduled meetings, we continually work with their leadership and oversight teams to answer questions and connect them with IVF labs currently using RI Witness™ to help encourage best practice.

A second pair of eyes benefits everyone

Everyone is human. It is impossible to keep track of everything and humans will miss things that computers will not. RI Witness™ is not just a snapshot; it is actually monitoring everything in relation to the patients’ gametes and embryos all the time from beginning to the end of a process.

For example, using RI Witness™ a clinic can observe how long everybody is working on each process, noting the length of time samples have been out of the incubator. RI Witness™ can also support clinical staff in comparing cycles, procedures and timing protocols within a clinic or a clinic group, providing valuable overall information.

“RI Witness is not just a snapshot; it is actually monitoring everything in relation to the patients’ gametes and embryos all the time from beginning to the end of a process.”

IVF Witness System: RI WitnessTM ART Management System

In addition, a clinic can also identify the work being done by individual embryologists to help ensure standardization and frequency of their range of tasks to maintain competencies.

Standardization generates predictability

One of the key things about standardization is that you can expect certain things to happen in a predictable way; when various procedures are being carried out, we expect to see them performed in the same way over and over again.

“…standardization is that you can expect certain things to happen in a predictable way …when various procedures are being carried out, we expect to see them performed in the same way over and over again”

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A system like RI Witness can help optimize standardization by providing insight to the lab’s processes and thereby help optimize and improve outcomes. For example, reviewed timing data from clinics can tell us a lot about the timing variations and which protocols and procedures are adhered to. This will help clinics standardize workflows, confident that they are validated by concrete knowledge-based information.

Indira IVF – standardizing across clinics

One example of RI Witness implementation within a group of clinics is Indira IVF, the largest fertility chain in India. Starting with just one IVF clinic, we worked with clinicians to determine which metrics they wanted to measure and came up with a monthly report that includes the specific metrics they requested for their clinics. Subsequently, the RI Witness monthly reports have been expanded to six of their clinics, creating a great opportunity to provide an overview of whether procedures and timings are the same across the entire clinic group.

At CooperSurgical, we are working towards a completely connected digital lab ecosystem that allows each clinic the specificity and individuality they need to assess their data metrics. This means not just reviewing numbers but providing access to an interpretation of what those numbers mean for their lab practitioners, clinicians, nurses and management.

We see a future where a witness system will add value to patients interested in following their fertility journey. Those types of capabilities are already being investigated and could prove to be a great solution for improving transparency and participation of patients in a very complex and complicated medical journey.

This type of technological advancement makes the fertility industry an exciting and promising sector to work in. So, I am excited to continue exploring the possibilities within this area, to see fertility care improve today and into the future.

“…we are continually thinking about how we can best serve clinics so that they can keep their focus on the bigger picture – helping patients achieve their ultimate dream of parenthood.”

We believe we are on the right track. With RI Witness, we can offer clinics a tool for better data utilization to achieve a higher level of insight. We are continually thinking about how we can best serve clinics, so they can keep their focus on the bigger picture – helping patients achieve their ultimate dream of parenthood.

About the authors

Rob has worked within the IVF field since 2003. He led the R&D team at Research Instruments (now part of CooperSurgical) and worked on several innovations for IVF labs including Saturn Active, the world’s first movable laser for IVF. Rob developed RI Witness, the Electronic Witnessing System, and now leads the Digital Innovation team for CooperSurgical in the development of technological solutions that can be used to improve quality within IVF laboratories.

Rob Thompson

Director of Digital Innovation, CooperSurgical

Peter has worked in the Life Science industry for close to 20 years in numerous customer-facing roles across several therapeutic areas such as ophthalmology, lung diseases, and for the last 5 years, in IVF. Peter established the CooperSurgical Key Accounts organization and has executed several global Strategic Collaborations with leaders in the industry. Together with his team, CooperSurgical aligns with leaders in the industry to help drive improved operations and outcomes for the benefit of patients.

Peter Bacher

Vice President of Key Accounts and Strategic Alliances, CooperSurgical

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