The majority of fertility clinic Web sites do not adhere to their own association’s advertising guidelines, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago study published in the January issue of Fertility and Sterility.
The study also found that services offered at private clinics and academic clinics were similar, but private clinics were more likely to publish success rates, use comparative marketing, and offer financial incentives.
Many consumers rely on the Internet to gather health information, and “the concern is that vulnerable patients may be misled by information that does not give the whole picture,” said Dr. Tarun Jain, assistant professor of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the UIC College of Medicine and senior author of the study.
Advertising guidelines adopted by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) seek to improve the accuracy of online information for patients. The guidelines, which are mandatory for membership in SART, require clinics to provide specific information about how in vitro fertilization outcome statistics are reported, mandate that clinics follow Federal Trade Commission guidelines, and warn against the comparison of success rates between clinics.
Jain recommends that infertility patients not rely solely on success rates published on fertility clinic Web sites.
“Patients should meet with a prospective physician and have their questions answered in person,” he said. “Success rates will vary depending on the patient’s diagnosis, age and other factors, but unfortunately, many patients choose a practice based on information obtained on the Internet.”