Recently, I met a patient who was very unhappy with the treatment meted out to her by the IVF clinic where she had failed her second treatment cycle. In most instances, when patients like her come in for a consultation, one of the first things they do, is offer me all their medical records so I can review them. In her case, she didn’t seem to be carrying any reports with her.

When asked, she said that she didn’t have any medical records of her previous IVF treatment as her doctor had “kept all the records, and did not hand them over." This instantly made me suspicious about the quality of the medical care she had received, and I told her so. I then had to grill her and extract basic information such as:

  • The  injections which were used for superovulation and their dose
  • The number of eggs that were retrieved
  • The number of embryos transferred
  • The quality of the embryos

The Perplexed Patient

Even as I posed all these questions, she looked progressively blank and hadn’t a clue about the answers. Believe it or not, I was even more perplexed than she was. Just imagine going through an expensive and time-consuming treatment such as IVF twice, and still not knowing the answers to such basic questions.

When I stated this to her (possibly not in a very subtle way), she became defensive and went so far as to challenging me, saying that being aware of all these nitty-gritty’s isn’t really her job, it’s the doctor’s.  Wasn’t she just a patient, following her doctor’s instructions to the tee? and ideally, isn’t that what a good patient does? Soon she did realize that the previous doctor hadn’t been on the level, and I dropped discussing the matter with her.

However, it never ceases to amaze me that when patients are buying something as basic as a music system or a TV set, they will insist on an invoice and a receipt; but it doesn’t strike them that they need  to ask for all their medical records.

Your IVF medical records are your property and are worth their weight in gold

Grill the doctor!

I believe it all boils down to the fact that many doctors can be intimidating and patients shirk from asking them any questions. Their concern is that if they ask too many questions of their doctor, he may get offended, annoyed and irritated. After all, if a patient is asking so many questions, it obviously means that she doesn’t trust him, right?

I think it’s vital that patients trust their doctors; but I also feel that this trust has to be earned; it’s not something that can just be expected. In IVF, there are times when cycles fail and not asking questions of your doctor can only end up creating lots of problems; and worrying about annoying him should be the least of them.

The Well-Informed Patient

A patient who has asked questions and received satisfactory answers will be in a much better position to cope with  IVF failure. Good doctors understand this, and encourage their patients to ask questions. Clever doctors have developed a wide range of techniques to answer the hundreds of questions IVF patients have, without spending any precious face-to-face time in doing so. Some of these techniques are:

  • Providing patient educational materials
  • FAQs on the internet
  • Giving patients free IVF comic books
  • Giving them brochures
  • Hiring nurses and assistants, whose primary job is to clarify patients’ doubts

Not sure what's happening during your IVF cycle?  Need more information? Please send me your medical details by filling in the form at www.drmalpani.com/free-second-opinion so that I can guide you better!

Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.

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