Perhaps you've heard stories in the media about mix-ups at fertility clinics where the identities of the parents of embryos become uncertain due to mislabeling of sperm, eggs, or resulting embryos. Statistically, these mishaps are rare, but you can imagine what a nightmare it is for the patients as well as the medical practitioners when mistakes do happen.
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. Non-invasive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) can track a patient's sperm, eggs and embryos during the course of treatment. If the wrong material is introduced in the lab environment, RFID alerts the staff, via visual and audible signals, to help prevent mislabeling of any materials.
RFID tags contain a microchip that acts as a unique digital fingerprint, safely identifies samples at the outset and tracks 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. By creating an automated system to minimize the chance for mix up, RFID safeguards the infertility treatment process and gives patients peace of mind.
Some fertility practices in the US and UK have already installed RFID. Since launching this new technology last year, over 20,000 infertility treatment cycles have employed RFID to ensure the safety and security of patients' genetic material.
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.