Key Takeaways

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Around 2% of births in the U.S. are the result of in-vitro fertilization (IVF). That number might not shock you. But more than 8 million babies have been born with this innovative fertility method.

Despite progress made in the world of fertility, roughly one in eight couples still face challenges when trying to conceive a child. With an unprecedented acceleration in healthtech development, how can innovative solutions help support better outcomes in this area?

In this episode of the Memora Health Care Delivery Podcast, our guest Eduardo Hariton, MD, MBA, VP of Strategic Initiatives at US Fertility and practicing physician at the Reproductive Science Center of San Francisco Bay, discusses opportunities to achieve advanced fertility care, why improving communication should be at the forefront of innovation, and how AI will play an essential role.

Fertility care has come a long way — but it’s ripe for innovation

In recent years, fertility care has become more commonplace. In 2023, Pew Research reported 42% of U.S. adults had used fertility treatments or know someone who has — a significant jump from 33% in 2018. The science itself, Dr. Hariton suggests, has also advanced substantially.

He says, “Our pregnancy rates have gone from 5% to 65%-70% with one embryo, and very few twin pregnancies. Whereas we were making quadruplets, quintuplets, and so on, because it was either that or no pregnancy. So clinically, we've improved a ton.”

However, this area of care delivery is still relatively new and has barely changed. Dr. Hariton explains, “Fertility has been around for 45 years since our first IVF baby, give or take. … When you take a step back and you look at 2024 medicine, the process hasn't really changed at all. So, I put on my management hat and I ask, ‘How can we make this better?’ I think there are absolutely opportunities across that whole spectrum to engage patients in a better way and make the system more efficient.”

Dr. Hariton adds, “We are doubling the size of the numbers of patients we are serving every 5-10 years in terms of number of cycles and access to care. Physicians are more efficient, but we’re not really changing how we practice.”

Find out how intelligent care enablement is advancing care journeys for patients and providers.

Improvements in patient-provider communication can lead the way

Diving into the exact opportunities for achieving advanced fertility care, Dr. Hariton posits that patient-provider communication must be a principal focus for improving quality of care and making care delivery more efficient.

He proposes, “First off, I think when we get a patient in the door, I wouldn't just ask them, ‘Do you want to make an appointment?’ I would ask them, ‘Who are you? How long have you been trying? What are your goals? What kind of care do you want to get? What kind of physician would you like to interact with?’ I would try to make sure that the people that come through that system are the right people to come through that system.”

For Dr. Hariton, enhanced communication doesn’t stop with just gathering data. It also extends to giving patients actionable resources for managing their fertility journeys. He expands, “I would design support structures for those who don't really need a fertility doctor just yet to still get the information they need to try at home or find the right provider. And I would probably move the diagnostic phase of testing ahead of time. I think one of the studies [Memora] published in the New England Journal of Medicine with Penn Medicine is probably [one of the] top three most interesting papers I've ever read in my field. It really showed that moving the diagnostic phase ahead of that visit is really valuable.”

Memora Health’s intelligent care enablement platform enables enhanced support beyond the four walls of the hospital for patients during care journeys. This includes providing two-way texting for individuals and their doctors, but importantly streamlines and simplifies a large slice of the administrative and clinical aspects of preparing for and continuing fertility care.

Healthcare AI will play a critical role for patients and providers

Healthcare AI is being applied across different areas of care delivery. For Dr. Hariton, there’s little doubt that intelligent technology will enable more effective and efficient fertility services — and will benefit both patients and providers.

He explains, “I think [AI is] going to automate a lot of our decisions that are currently happening manually. What dose, when to trigger, what protocol, what embryo to pick, grading the embryos, etc. It's going to allow [clinicians] to move away from that and into the care delivery and procedural things. I think it's also going to really empower our teams to educate patients better. It's going to engage patients where they are in their journey, give them the information they need, help them make their appointments, and answer questions.”

There could be a multitude of positive outcomes when healthcare AI is applied appropriately in fertility care. These results might not emerge in the next couple of years, but will become more apparent over the next decade. He says, “I love this Bill Gates quote where he says people often overestimate what's going to happen next year, but underestimate what's going to happen in 10. And I think that's where we are. It's not going to change everything in two years, but in five or 10, if I'm still doing the things [as a fertility physician the same way] that I do today, I would be very disappointed with our technology.”

Memora Health’s platform uses AI to interpret patient messages, then retrieves appropriate and relevant responses from a clinician-curated, client-assured database. This system helps ensure our technology is designed for safety and reliability, while leveraging human accountability and clinical oversight. 

Much like other areas of care, fertility is facing a turning point: innovate for the future or get stuck in the past. By enhancing patient-provider communication and harnessing AI to improve care operations, healthcare leaders can move the ball forward toward more advanced fertility care — thus expanding access, lowering costs, and improving quality.