Note: This post is intended for physicians and other professionals working in the fertility industry.
Every year, SART makes a big push to contact fertility clinics listed on this website in an effort to scare them away from advertising or even linking here. They cite their advertising policy which prohibits “advertising/marketing that ranks or compares clinics or practices.”
They want to put us out of business.
I’ve already written about why I think IVF success rate data should be free from this restriction, so I won’t reiterate that here.
Instead, I’d like to focus on the futility and oppressiveness of SART’s continued attacks on this website.
First and foremost, even if we didn’t make one cent in advertising revenue from this website, we would continue to run it as a public service. We hear overwhelmingly from patients that we provide an informative and useful entry point to the complex topic of IVF success rate data. We receive emails regularly from patients expressing their gratitude for making this public data set easier to use. One patient even gave us their @IVF twitter handle with the intent of enabling us to help more fertility patients. We will continue to honor that intent. Our entire organization finds this work extremely gratifying and we have plenty of other sources of revenue to support this website as a passion project. We aren’t going away.
Past that, let’s look at what SART is classifying as “advertising.” Each clinic that is listed on this website has a profile. Here is an example of one of them. The profile page for each clinic purposely doesn’t make comparisons to any other center. SART is contacting clinics for simply linking from their clinic’s website to their clinic’s profile page on this website. No direct comparisons are being made. This doesn’t even seem to be a violation of the SART advertising policy and, in fact, many clinics continue to link to us in this manner even after being contacted by SART.
Furthermore, we leverage the Google Content Network to serve advertisements in many areas of the website. Here is an example of one of those pages. Is SART going to police all clinics that use Google Adwords to make sure their ads don’t appear anywhere on this website? Will those clinics need to stop using Google Adwords in order to become compliant with the SART advertising policy?
Finally, the CDC has an Excel spreadsheet containing all of the IVF Success Rate data, right on their main ART page: http://www.cdc.gov/ART/ The link is a third of the way down the page. Here’s a direct link. This spreadsheet makes comparing IVF success rate data almost as easy as using this website. If a clinic links to the CDC Assisted Reproductive Technology website, are they in violation of the advertising guidelines as well?
What can you do?
The SART advertising policy needs to change. Federal law mandates the publication of IVF success rate data. Patients are already using that data to compare clinics. Making this comparison more difficult to do isn’t the solution. Instead we should educate patients so that they can make more informed treatment decisions. Understandably, most physicians don’t want to come under the scrutiny of SART, so change is hard to come by. That said, we encourage you to engage in a dialog with SART about the validity of the restrictions contained in the advertising policy. An organization comprised of voluntary membership can only wield as much power as its members give it. It might be lofty thinking, but if enough SART members want change, then change will have to come.
We respect all of the hard work done by SART in collecting and publishing the IVF Success Rate Report. We just wish they would spend more of their valuable resources educating patients instead of trying to suppress a legitimate and valuable use of public data. What do you think?