Study question: Are clinic factors, including patients' experiences with patient-centred care, associated with dropout in fertility care?
Summary answer: Clinic factors, including patients' experiences with patient-centred care, are not related to dropout.
What is known already: In fertility care, a significant proportion of patients do not achieve pregnancy because they discontinue treatment prematurely. Many studies have tried to identify factors predicting dropout, showing incompatible results. However, these studies mainly focus on factors at the treatment and patient level, while clinic factors have received little attention.
Study design, size, duration: This prospective, longitudinal study was nested within a large RCT, which aims to improve the level of patient-centredness of Dutch fertility care. Of the 1620 infertile women who were invited to participate, the baseline measurement of the study (T0) included 693 women who completed a questionnaire about their experiences with patient-centred fertility care. The follow-up of the patients was 1 year (T1).
Participants/materials, setting, methods: All included women suffered from infertility and were undergoing treatment in one of the 32 Dutch clinics involved in the trial. Levels of patient-centredness were determined using the Patient-Centredness Questionnaire-Infertility (PCQ-Infertility) at T0. Meanwhile, a professionals' questionnaire was used to gather additional information on characteristics of the clinic (e.g. the number of patients per year or the presence of a fertility nurse). After 1 year, at T1 measurement, patients completed a questionnaire on their current status in fertility care, including their main reason for discontinuation if applicable.
Main results and the role of chance: A total of 693 non-pregnant women completed the questionnaire set at T0 and 534 women (77.1%) provided consent for follow-up. At T1 measurement, 434 women (81.3%) completed the questionnaire and 153 of these women (35.2%) continued treatment while 76 women (17.5%) dropped out. Another 175 women (40.3%) had achieved pregnancy and 30 patients (7.9%) were advised to discontinue treatment for medical reasons. Neither levels of patient-centredness nor the additional clinic characteristics differed significantly between dropouts and compliers. However, patients who did not receive assisted reproduction treatment (ART; e.g. underwent intrauterine insemination, IUI) before they dropped out had significantly lower scores on the PCQ-Infertility subscale 'Respect for patients' values' than patients who continued their treatment [odds ratio (OR) 0.57; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.34-0.95]. Patients who received ART and, subsequently, dropped out had higher scores on the PCQ-Infertility subscale 'Patient involvement' than those receiving non-ART (OR 2.39; 95% CI 1.02-5.59).
Limitations, reasons for caution: We were not able to follow-up a significant proportion (ca. 19%) of the 1620 women who were invited for T0 measurement, which might have biased our results. We also excluded patients who were still in the diagnostic work-up stage and this might have influenced our results as it is known that patients dropout at this stage. As the PCQ-Infertility was validated in patients who were already undergoing treatment, we decided to focus on this patient group only.
Wider implications of the findings: The results of this study provide a better insight into those factors influencing dropout from the perspective of factors in the clinic itself. Although most clinic factors were not related to dropout, clinic factors might be of use when predicting dropout for specific patient groups, such as patients receiving ART and non-ART. Future research should involve an exploration of more specific predictors of dropout at the patient, treatment and clinic levels.
Study funding/competing interests: This work was supported by Merck Serono, the Netherlands. No competing interests declared.
Keywords: clinic factors; dropout; infertility; patient-centredness; predictors.