A new software technology is helping to reduce the risk of laboratory errors in infertility treatment, by electronically identifying the sperm, eggs, resulting embryos and other materials used in in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment cycles. Using non-invasive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), IVF Witness(TM) can track a patient's sperm, eggs and embryos during the course of treatment. If the wrong material is introduced in the lab environment, IVF Witness alerts the staff, via visual and audible signals, to help prevent mislabeling of any materials.
While laboratory errors are rare, by creating an automated system to minimize the chance for mix up, IVF Witness safeguards the infertility treatment process and gives patients peace of mind.
The IVF Witness is being used in infertility clinics worldwide, including leading clinics in the UK and United States. Since launching this new technology last year, over 20,000 infertility treatment cycles have employed IVF Witness to ensure the safety and security of patients' genetic material.
IVF Witness uses RFID tags, each containing a microchip that acts as a unique digital fingerprint, safely identifying samples at the outset and tracking them through the fertilization process. Each patient is given an RFID identity card, with a unique identification, that are used with all sample materials for that patient, including Petri dishes and test tubes used in a patient's treatment cycle. The entire system is electronically managed.
"Our aim was to develop a system that automatically tracks a patient's eggs, sperm and resulting embryos during an infertility treatment cycle, to reduce the risk of mislabeling or error," said Bill Brown, President of Research Instruments. "Infertility treatment is a very precise and personal process and IVF Witness helps to maintain the integrity and security of this process for both healthcare providers and patients."
"IVF is difficult enough for patients without the added worry of possible mix ups," said Kevin M. Johnson, MD, Medical Director, Overlake Reproductive Health in Seattle, WA. "We want to offer our patients complete peace of mind and that is why we have invested in the IVF Witness system for both of our laboratories."
International Organizations Call for More Safeguards
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recently pledged to work with patient groups, policy makers and other stakeholders to develop systems to reduce the risk of errors. In the United Kingdom, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the UK's regulatory body, is supporting the use of electronic witnessing in all IVF clinics. Currently, HFEA requires all IVF clinics to at least 'double witness' the IVF process, with two staff members manually double-checking the labeling and handling of all samples.
According to John Robinson, MD, Scientific Director of Hull IVF Unit in the UK, "IVF Witness, unlike the double witness process, does not require two members of staff to operate. It allows embryologists to work safely and effectively, without frequent interruptions to witness with other colleagues. In effect, it is providing a continual and very robust safety check, independent and additional to the many checks embryologists have to carry out."
"Several infertility practices in the US, and most major IVF clinics in the UK have already installed the IVF Witness, and are pleased with the additional reassurance it brings," added Brown. "Interest has also been considerable in countries such as China, Japan and the Middle East, where IVF Witness has recently been launched."