Eliminating Stigma and Improving Patient Experience at IVF-Life

Andreia Trigo (inFertile Life): ‘Historically, most clinics have focused more on the technical aspects and forgotten the emotional aspect’

A few days ago we had the pleasure of welcoming at IVF Spain fertility nurse specialist and founder of inFertile Life, Andreia Trigo. She held a very special and interesting seminar aimed at our Patient Care Department during which different strategies and tools were discussed to provide a better patient care and support to patients suffering from fertility problems. During her two-day-visit Andreia Trigo also offered support sessions to patients who were at our clinic for the first time as well as to patients that were almost at the end of their journey.

Given the importance of her work as a fertility coach, it has been a pleasure to interview her and to get the chance to learn more about her vision and thoughts on providing care to infertile patients and her professional career.

What was your motivation for devoting to emotionally supporting patients under fertility treatment?

I was diagnosed with infertility at a very young age, 17 years old. It was very difficult to cope with infertility, to cope with the loss of not having children when I was still a child myself. Even though I wasn’t actively trying to conceive, I have a big family and it was in my plans to eventually have children. I felt my identity as a woman was challenged, it affected my relationship with myself, with family, with friends, at work. I felt I didn’t belong.

A few years after my diagnosis, I graduated as a nurse, but I didn’t want to work in this area. The constant reminder of my condition was too painful, so I just kept avoiding it.

It took me 16 years to cope. That’s when I made the decision to help others. I wanted to combine my personal experience and my professional experience, helping people in similar journeys.

Apart from my nursing qualification, I did a diploma in neuro linguistic programming coaching which has helped me create unique tools and strategies to help others cope emotionally.

To what extent do you think this approach can benefits patients?

Professional coaching is a collaboration between myself and the patients. It can be a very powerful approach. Patients are always at the centre of my strategy that starts with getting to know them, where they are in their journey and where they want to be.

The support and accountability factors make the real difference. If someone has a coach supporting them and being accountable for their goals, they are more likely to follow through and achieve them.

How can your support improve the patient experience?

Patient experience starts from the moment the patient comes across the clinic’s website or social media; when the patient calls the clinic and how the receptionist interacts; the way the waiting area in the clinic is designed; having staff that are understanding, empathetic and competent; concerned about maintaining patient’s dignity during those intimate examinations and procedures; making them feel valued and that the whole team cares for them, that we are all together in this journey of helping them grow their family.

So, we can say that patient experience starts when patients are at home, deciding which clinic to engage with.

Historically, most clinics have focused more on the technical aspects and forgotten the emotional aspect. So, my role has two fronts: helping clinical teams develop the skills they need to provide adequate emotional support; and helping patients with one to one care.

Do you believe it is necessary to improve the patient care service of fertility clinics?

I do think there is room for improving the care provided at fertility clinics and making sure we are meeting patients’ needs with a holistic approach.

Patients are thinking about the stigma associated with infertility, or maybe they are recalling the social pressure from family or friends, or they have feelings of isolation, or they are considering the financial burden or thinking about the impact of this journey in their professional lives. And all of this happens whilst they are having the procedures, whilst they are trying to cope with loss, whilst they are trying to make important decisions.

Taking all this into account, it’s not surprising that couples going through infertility have similar levels of depression and anxiety compared to cancer patients.

This emotional distress is the most common reason for people to stop fertility treatment before reaching their goal. So, our effort is in reducing this emotional distress, so that patients cope better and stick to treatment.

Is there any particular case you would like to share with us?

Whilst visiting IVF Spain I was truly impressed with the emphasis on patient wellbeing. The atmosphere at the clinic was purposefully thought out and designed to reduce stress: from the wood floors, to the spa music in the background and the private waiting areasStaff were so attentive, and the ratio patient-staff allowed to have quality time with patients, getting to know them and supporting them during the journey.

Having treatment abroad can be stressful, so it was good to see this attention to detail in patient care. I enjoyed the work I was able to do at IVF Spain, supporting British patients face to face in their first visit, and just before embryo transfer. These are both key moments during the patient journey.

I also enjoyed the team training, helping them develop some strategies to provide emotional support not only face to face, but with phone or email communications. I’m really excited and looking forward a successful partnership in emotional support with a clinic that understands the importance of this aspect in the patient journey.

2018 has truly been a successful year for inFertile Life – what do you think has been the cause for earning international recognition? (Awarded Best Innovation in Business 2018, Awarded E-Business of 2018)

This has actually been an impressive year for inFertile Life. It started earlier in the year with my TEDx in London. And then we developed our flagship service: the Enhanced Fertility Programme. The fact that the programme is online and comes with professional support has made it quite successful and attracted patients from all over the world.

We also wanted to make sure it was evidence-based, so we developed it through research with London South Bank University. We ended up being recognised for our work, with an Award for Best Innovation in Business 2018 and Award for E-Business of the year 2018.

The secret has been to listen to our clients, making sure we understand their needs and provide solutions always make sure patients are at the centre of everything we do at inFertile Life.