When TJ Farnsworth and his wife got married, they wanted to start a family right away. “We started down a two-and-a-half-year road of infertility, pregnancy loss and multiple different treatments, which ended up with the outcome that we had, which was a great outcome, our rambunctious little seven-and-a-half-year-old boy,” says Farnsworth. “But the process itself and the journey on the way to that outcome left a lot to be desired.”
A healthcare entrepreneur, Farnsworth saw an opportunity to reshape the fertility industry by building an ecosystem of companies whose primary focus would be on the patient experience. “Nobody grows up thinking to themselves, ‘Wow, I can’t wait to have my baby in a laboratory.’ So, all of our patients are there not because this is the dream that they had. There’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of stress. And a focus on that journey, we felt, was an important shift.”
Farnsworth sat down with Jessica Abo to discuss his company, Inception Fertility, the family of brands that fall under it and how his work is bridging the gap between the patient experience and science and technology.
Jessica Abo: You had this idea for Inception Fertility. What was the first step that you took?
TJ Farnsworth: Just like any entrepreneur, it’s trying to validate what you think is the potential opportunity. I found when I went around and visited various fertility clinics around the country, that this was an industry-wide systemic problem, the focus was on outcomes only without really understanding the emotional aspect of the journey the patients are going.
How does Inception Fertility bridge the gap between the patient experience and science and technology?
Part of a great patient experience is a great outcome. So, being on the forefront of science and medicine is really key to our core mission. But the use of technology, outside of just the application of clinical services with things like our app [Prelude Connect] that guides patients and sort of becomes a digital concierge to patients if they’re going through their fertility journey, really alleviates a lot of the stress, the anxiety, in what is a very complicated process for all of our patients.
What is Inception doing for those who can’t afford treatment?
For most couples in the United States, there is no coverage for fertility services by their insurance providers. And that’s a fight that we’re fighting as a company and as an industry. We believe infertility is a disease and needs to be recognized as such. And patients need to have the financial coverage that they need in order to have the baby they want.
But in the meantime, we have to solve that problem. And so we’ve launched a couple of businesses, namely a business we have called BUNDL, which allows patients to finance as well as provide some guarantees around the outcomes associated with their treatment, to make this more financially accessible to patients that don’t have coverage. The reality is, you don’t want economics to stand in the way of any patients having the family that they want.
And then the second piece of this is really access to care associated with various geography. We’ve launched a new brand called Pathways Fertility, which provides services using nurse practitioners, physician assistants, other types of physicians, in these more rural areas, to extend the coverage for patients that don’t live in an area that has a fertility clinic.
What advice do you have for other healthcare entrepreneurs out there who are trying to disrupt their space?
As an entrepreneur, you’re constantly looking for problems to try and solve. So, as you’re looking at any type of clinical service, patient experience is one of the things that oftentimes is not very much focused on within the clinical setting. And I think there’s starting to become a shift to that.
I think finding out how your patients are experiencing the services that are being delivered within your clinics and how they’re interacting with those clinics, and finding out where those gaps lie. And not accepting the fact that, “Hey, it’s always been done this way, and this is the way we’ve always done it,” is a good answer always, to any problem.
What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs?
Whether it’s healthcare or otherwise, it’s all about the people. You take great care of the people, they’re going to take great care of our patients. I think that applies to all businesses. As the entrepreneur, I set the strategy and then I hire the team around me to execute that. I put the players in the field to execute the strategy that I set in order to win.