18 May Interview with Esther Velilla, CEO of Reproclinic to know more about our motto One patient=One team
For years, Reproclinic has had an incredible team, both at a professional and human level, who work day after day to achieve a single objective: to offer the highest quality and patient care. An essence that represents this clinic as one of the best at an international level, highly demanded by foreign and national patients. Why do we at Reproclinic consider it important to maintain a direct and continuous communication between the specialist doctor and the patient during a fertility treatment? One of the questions that today will be answered first hand by our CEO, biologist and PhD in cell Biology and genetics at Reproclinic.
1. For how long have you been a specialist in assisted reproduction treatments and why did you want to focus on this speciality?
Assisted reproduction has been my passion since I was a little girl watching the news and seeing the birth of the first test tube baby (as they called it back then). I have been involved in assisted reproduction for over 20 years, starting in the assisted reproduction lab and then being hired by Saint Barnabas Medical Center in New Jersey in the Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis lab. I wanted to become much more specialised in the field of reproductive medicine. After two years I decided to return to Spain to present my doctoral thesis and, once I finished this stage, I managed an in vitro fertilisation laboratory and established a PGT laboratory.
Over the years assisted reproduction quality and procedures has developed considerably. Improvements in embryo culture systems, in the vitrification of gametes and embryos, new infertility diagnostic techniques and test has developed and, specifically, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, have made it possible to improve patient diagnosis and considerably increase the chances of pregnancy.
2. Reproclinic treats patients coming from more than 25 different countries. How is this organised?
We are experiencing a change of behaviour in society. We started from a scenario where the doctor was the patient’s trusted person and basically practised medicine locally. The patient was at the expense of the doctor’s skills and schedule, it was understood as normal to go to the specialist and wait for an hour in the waiting room. Today, fortunately this has changed, the entry of the internet and social networks, advertising systems, the increase in communications, the ease of travel, among other factors, have produced a total change in the behaviour of the population.
Thanks to all this, the population has more knowledge and control over their lives. We live in a global world where borders are only idiomatic and cultural, and all this has allowed patients to decide where they want to go and who they want to be treated, wherever they are, creating the movement known as Cross-Border Reproductive Care (CBRC).
Having a good economic position together with the improvement in the existing communications network with affordable prices means that people are willing to undergo medical treatment in another country, either because it is not legal in their own country, or because the technology or the appropriate professionals do not exist, and even in certain cases in search of cheaper treatments.
It is true that we have a very high level of technology and professionals, but it will never be enough if we do not take care and embrace our patients.
Imagine what it means for a person to have to travel to another country of which they know absolutely nothing, neither the language, nor the customs, nor what they are going to find. Many people have never travelled outside their own country, and just the fact of having to do so is a major challenge. They feel fear, anxiety, the feeling that everything is extremely complicated… We are obliged to advise, help, understand and offer everything that each of our patient’s needs. Because each patient is unique and each one has different needs and concerns. Communication and active listening are the basis of all success. Our aim is that the patient only worries about her treatment, about following medical instructions properly, about taking her medication when it is due and in the correct way, and about having her check-ups when it is due, so that she can leave the rest in our hands.
3. Reproclinic stands out from other clinics for its patient care, recognised once again this year by WhatClinic in the 2020 Patient Service Awards. How did the idea come about and why do you think that caring for excellence in patient experience gives such good results?
It all became from a personal experience and reflection. I was managing an assisted reproduction laboratory when I found that I needed to resort to assisted reproduction treatment myself in order to have a child. Imagine, I had all the technical and scientific information necessary to evaluate the pros and cons, and to answer all the doubts that any patient may have, but everything changed.
Other doubts and concerns arose. I knew the biology, all the laboratory processes, the risks, the benefits, the alternatives, I had complete confidence in my team and I was very lucky to be supported by all of them, but even so, it was an emotionally distressing and complicated process.
It was at that moment that I realised how lucky I was to have the necessary information and communication, and to feel listened to, understood and supported. Ultimately, I knew that we needed to invest more in the emotional care and experience of the patient.
4. How do you maintain this direct and continuous communication? What is the secret of your way of working, that is, what added value does Reproclinic offer its patients to differentiate itself from other fertility clinics?
Each patient is assigned a team that speaks his or her language, who will start and end the treatment with him or her, and who will be there for everything that is needed. This consists of a patient assistant, a medical coordinator and a doctor. This team becomes the patient’s trusted team and is at the patient’s side at all times. We want to avoid the patient being seen by countless different doctors or staff and having to explain their story over and over again. We want to move away from the big chains.
At Reproclinic everything is very personalised, communication is permanent, by phone, email, or any other communication platform the patient prefers. As we have patients from several countries, each one prefers a different system, we adapt without any problem and we attend consultations seven days a week. We put a lot of effort and resources into answering as soon as possible in order to resolve doubts and reduce the anxiety they may have. We are also aware that each woman or couple, in order for the treatment to be successful and for us to achieve a baby, must be in the best moment of physical and emotional balance.
Each woman or couple is unique, as each one experience it in a different way and requires a different treatment. There is no one-size-fits-all protocol or formula.
For this reason, we offer an integral and holistic treatment. We collaborate with a large network of professionals in different sectors such as coaches, nutritionists, acupuncturists, reflexologists, all of them specialised in patients seeking pregnancy or carrying a pregnancy, located in Barcelona or in different countries. This allows us to go beyond medicine and offer a integrative treatment.
5. Spain is currently one of the most popular destinations for couples and/or people who want to start a family but have not been able to do so naturally. From the point of view of treatment, do you consider that there is a difference between patients who live in Barcelona and do not need to move and patients who come from another country, such as France, for example?
As far as treatment is concerned, we offer the same treatment to all patients, but the truth is that international patients require more medical support, as they have to coordinate the initial medical tests and analyses in their own country. If they do not have a contact centre, we help them in the process. We also adapt to their schedules. It is not the same to treat a patient from France, who has the same time zone as us, as one from the west coast of the USA or Australia, which are 9 and 12 hours apart. All this requires a larger network of operations. Apart from this, the big difference is that most foreign patients who decide to travel to another country do so because they have exhausted all their treatment possibilities in their own country or are looking for a treatment that is not legal or is limited in their country or are looking for a centre that offers better quality. They are often patients with complex medical histories.
Each patient is assigned a team that speaks his or her language, who will start and end the treatment with him or her and who will be there for everything that is needed. This consists of a patient assistant, a medical coordinator and a doctor.
This team becomes the patient’s trusted team and is at the patient’s side at all times.
We want to avoid the patient being seen by countless different doctors or staff and having to explain their story over and over again. We want to move away from the big IVF chains clinics.
As we have patients from several countries, each one prefers a different system, we adapt without any problem and we attend consultations 7 days a week. We put a lot of effort and resources into answering as soon as possible in order to resolve doubts and reduce the anxiety they cause. We are also aware that each woman or couple, in order for the treatment to be successful and for us to achieve a baby, must be in the best moment of physical and emotional balance
For them we offer an integral and holistic treatment. We collaborate with a large network of professionals in different sectors such as coaches, nutritionists, acupuncturists, reflexologists, all of them specialised in patients seeking pregnancy or carrying a pregnancy, located in Barcelona or in different countries. This allows us to go beyond medicine and offer a comprehensive treatment.
6. How do you feel when all the efforts to give such personalised and special attention bear such beautiful fruit as the birth of a baby?
The truth is that we are very happy with the daily thanks from our patients. When a woman or couple “gives you” a few words of thanks, or a few photos of the baby, that’s when all the effort makes sense. It’s great, there are no words.