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As the situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, many fertility clinics are understandably adapting their operations in response to new guidelines from regional and national societies. On March 17, 2020, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) released new guidelines for U.S. fertility clinics as they continued to manage patients in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of its recommendations was for fertility clinics to “minimize in-person interactions and increase utilization of telehealth.”
Though many fertility clinics currently remain open, many have also started moving appointments to phone or video calls as opposed to in-person visits. Because this may be a new experience for many, we put together a bit more information and tips to help you make the most of your telehealth experience.
What is telehealth?
Telehealth — sometimes called telemedicine — is any health care service you can receive while not being physically in a room with your provider. Telehealth can include emailing with a provider, using an online portal to view test results, getting your prescriptions mailed to you, or holding a video chat or phone call with your provider. You may have already been participating in forms of telehealth without even realizing it.
Is telehealth covered by Carrot?
All fertility-related telehealth services from Carrot-eligible providers is reimbursement-eligible through Carrot, subject to your cost-share and benefit maximum. Reach out to the Carrot team if you have any questions about how your Carrot benefit works with telehealth services.
What can telehealth be used for?
Telehealth can be used for any part of your fertility journey that doesn’t require direct contact with your fertility care provider.
For those just starting out, you may be able to use telehealth to conduct an initial consultation with your fertility doctor. During this visit, you can speak to your doctor about your interests, long-term family-forming goals, and medical history to get a better idea of what options may be a good fit for you. Once your fertility clinic is holding in-person visits again, you can schedule any necessary tests or imaging for your clinical team to develop your treatment plan.
If you’ve already had an initial consultation and know what type of treatment is right for you, you may be able to use this time to review your treatment plan with your clinical team or meet with your financial coordinator so, once it’s time to begin treatment, you’re ready to go.
Any care that does require direct contact with your provider, such as blood draws for lab tests or ultrasounds and other imaging procedures, may not be able to be done via telehealth. Because of that, you should speak to your clinic directly about plans and timelines.
What should I expect during a telehealth initial consultation?
A telehealth consult is not too different from a standard visit with your fertility specialist. Your doctor will start by asking about your medical history, family history, and fertility goals. Based on your answers, your doctor may be able to present a few treatment options available to you.
Once your clinic is able to hold in-person visits — and if you decide to move forward with your clinic — your doctor will ask you to visit in person to perform any necessary tests such as blood tests, ultrasounds, or semen analysis to get a better idea of the best treatment option for you.
If you’re a Carrot member looking to learn more about what to expect in your initial consultation, visit the Carrot Library (please note, you'll need to be logged in to use these links):
- Initial consultation: cis-woman
- Initial consultation: cis-man
- Initial consultation: cis-woman and cis-man
- Initial consultation: two cis-women
*Cisgender, often abbreviated as “cis,” is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth. In this context, we’re referring to cis-women as people born with ovaries who identify as female and women and cis-men as people born with testicles who identify as male and men.
How should I prepare for my fertility telehealth visit?
Make sure you know how you’ll be connecting with your doctor. Is it through a specific app? Do you have your conference URL or dial-in information ready? If you’re connecting via video call, check that you have a strong and stable internet connection and that your microphone and camera are working properly.
Past medical records
It can be helpful for your clinic to see your past medical records, especially pap smear results and mammograms in cis-women, STD tests, and genetic screening tests. They’ll also want to hear about previous fertility care, if applicable.
Don’t be shy! Your fertility doctor is here to provide answers, no matter how basic or specific they may seem to you. If you are considering treatment, here are some questions to help you get started:
- If we choose this clinic, will we see the same doctor and care team during each visit?
- Will you be the doctor performing our procedure(s)?
- Based on my age and family-forming goals, what type of treatment do you think is right for me? How will this be affected by my transvaginal ultrasound/blood tests/semen analysis results?
Talk to your Care Coordinator
Each clinic has its own process, so once you have selected a clinic, reach out to their Care Coordinator to find out how you can best prepare for your initial consultation.
No matter your personal situation, keep in mind that there’s no commitment to receive treatment at a clinic just because you’ve had an initial consultation there. Focus on gaining the information you need to make an informed decision, so when you are ready to build a family or receive treatment, you’ll know that you’ve chosen the best clinic for you.
Fertility clinics offering telehealth appointments
To help you easier access telehealth fertility care, Carrot has compiled a small list of eligible partner clinics offering telehealth services. We’ll continue to update this as more of our partner clinics begin offering telehealth services. If you do not see a clinic near you or have any questions about specific offerings at each clinic or pricing information, please reach out to the Carrot team.
- Advanced Fertility Care of Arizona
- Arizona Associates For Reproductive Health
- Bloom Reproductive Institute
- C.A.R.E. for the Bay Area
- California Fertility Partners
- Fertility & Surgical Associates of California
- Marin Fertility
- Nova In Vitro Fertilization
- Pacific Fertility Center
- RMA of Northern California
- RSC Bay Area
- Southern California Reproductive Center
- Spring Fertility