Qualitative evaluation of the acceptability and feasibility among healthcare professionals and patients of an ART multi-cycle treatment planning and continuation intervention prototype

China R Harrison, Sofia Gameiro, Jacky Boivin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Is it possible to design an ART Treatment Planning and Continuation Intervention (TPCI) that is considered acceptable and feasible to patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs)?

HCPs and patients responded positively to the TPCI prototype and perceived it as an acceptable intervention to support patients to stay engaged with planned treatment, but some concerns were raised about the feasibility of using it in practice.

People discontinue ART due to its psychological burden. Digital tools to support people undergoing ART are available but typically focus only on practical support rather than psychological support. Research about treatment continuation and multi-cycle planning indicates that cognitive factors (expectations, intentions, efficacy beliefs) should be targets of interventions designed to help patients engage with and continue treatment to meet their personal treatment plans and goals. However, it is not known whether this form of psychological support would be acceptable for HCPs and patients or feasible to implement in practice.

Qualitative cognitive interviews with HCPs and patients (May 2021). Patients were eligible if they had had a consultation to start a first/repeat stimulated IVF/ICSI cycle in the 8 weeks prior to recruitment, were aged 18 or older (upper age limit of 42 years for women) and fluent in English. Eligible HCPs were those employed by a fertility clinic who were responsible for delivering treatment planning consultations to patients.

HCPs and patients were asked to think aloud while being exposed to and exploring the TPCI in one-to-one online cognitive interviews. The TPCI was designed to reduce treatment discontinuation via cognitive factors namely formation and maintenance of multi-cycle ART intentions and efficiency of decision-making during treatment, and continuation of treatment after an unsuccessful cycle (when recommended). To impact cognitive factors the TPCI comprised of two components: an expectation management and reasoning checklist for HCPs to use during planning consultations (TPCI Checklist) and a multi-feature cognitive support mobile application (TPCI App) for patients to use prior to and during treatment. After participants thought aloud while being exposed to the TPCI prototype (both components) they were asked open questions concerning their perceptions of the core components and activities on eight acceptability dimensions (e.g. acceptability, demand, integration). Interviews lasted between 40 and 90 min, were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis.

Thirteen HCPs and 13 patients participated in 25 online interviews. Thematic analysis using inductive and deductive coding generated 180 codes, grouped into 22 categories and synthesized into 9 themes. The themes showed that HCPs and patients provided positive feedback about the TPCI, perceiving it as a needed, acceptable and potentially effective way to forewarn patients of the possible need for multiple cycles, to provide patients with a sense of patient–clinic collaboration and support, and to bolster treatment intentions, all of which were perceived to contribute to reduced treatment discontinuation. HCPs perceived implementation of the TPCI Checklist to be challenging in its current length due to time pressures and clinic workload. Suggestions for enhancing the TPCI Checklist and App were provided, but none required critical changes to its core components or activities.

All patients were women recruited from social media websites, mainly associated with patient support groups, who may be highly committed to their fertility treatment. HCPs were predominantly from private fertility clinics.

The findings suggest there is demand for digital support geared towards motivational aspects of undergoing ART. The TPCI is an acceptable support tool to meet that need according to HCPs responsible for delivering planning consultations and patients undergoing fertility treatment. Future research is needed to develop the prototype and examine the feasibility of implementation of the TPCI in clinics.

This research was financially supported by Merck Serono Ltd, an affiliate of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. ‘Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany reviewed the manuscript for medical accuracy only before journal submission. The authors are fully responsible for the content of this manuscript, and the views and opinions described in the publication reflect solely those of the authors’ J.B. reports personal fees from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, Merck AB an affiliate of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt Germany, Theramex, Organon JJC, Ferring Pharmaceuticals A/S, research grant from Merck Serono Ltd, grants from ESHRE outside the submitted work and that she is co-developer of Fertility Quality of Life (FertiQoL) and MediEmo app. S.G. reports consultancy fees from TMRW Life Sciences and Ferring Pharmaceuticals A/S, speaker fees from Access Fertility, SONA-Pharm LLC, Meridiano Congress International and Gedeon Richter. C.H. declares no conflicts of interest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-443
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.


  • infertility
  • psychology
  • assisted reproductive technology
  • continuation
  • multi-cycle planning
  • expectations
  • re-engagement
  • intervention


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