Fertility Web site brings life to EMD Serono

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Reproductive health leader EMD Serono Inc. is seeing great results from its Fertility LifeLines service. Yearly, about 6 million Americans suffer from infertility.

EMD Serono launched an integrated Web site at www.fertilitylifelines.com and call center to provide customized information and support to people with fertility health concerns.

"Infertility is a very different disease from other diseases we track in that it is not a chronic disease," said Barri Falk, vice president of marketing for endocrinology at EMD Serono, Rockland, MA. "Patients struggle with it for a very defined period of time in their lives - typically between the age of 25 and 44 - and then they move on."

She said there is a lot of misinformation about infertility in the public today, as well as barriers to seeking treatment, such as financial and emotional burdens. What's more, only 50 percent of people who need help seek treatment at their OB-GYN, Ms. Falk said.

An affiliate of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, EMD Serono focuses on specialized therapeutic areas, including reproductive health and metabolic endocrinology.

"We want people to start learning about fertility early," Ms. Falk said. "We want them to understand, for example, that there is an impact of age on fertility and that it can be treated. In fact, the majority of patients that go through treatment do have success. This is not known in the public today."

Ms. Falk said patients who sign up as members for the site can download relevant educational information. Once patients have been prescribed medications, they can also watch instructional videos and download information about products from the site.

Patients can also sign up for My Fertility Plan, an eight-page document that helps patients set goals and anticipate decisions.

User metrics for the site have been positive.

"We achieve an 8 to 10 percent click-through rate to our site," Ms. Falk said. "In addition, the average time spent on our site is eight minutes, versus two to three minutes, which is the benchmark in our industry."

The site is also integrated with a toll-free number and call center staffed with infertility nurses, customer service representatives and reimbursement specialists trained to respond to callers' needs.

Patients become members by signing up online or at the call center. Ms. Falk said the opt-in feature enables EMD Serono to have an online dialogue with members. For example, each quarter, the company sends e-mail newsletters to 12,000 of its 35,000 members.

The company customizes the e-mail newsletters based on where users are in their fertility journey. There are three content-specific e-newsletters, one for those trying to conceive, one for those in treatment in the OB-GYN and one for those in treatment at a fertility center.

"We see over 400,000 visitors per year on our Web site, and we are likely to see over 500,000 this year," Ms. Falk said.

Ms. Falk said members are predominantly women, and the site is balanced out between people trying to conceive and patients being treated.

Digital agency Cramer was hired to work on the Web site, marketing programs and branding efforts.

"Understanding the nuances of speaking to somebody in a disease state and what they need to hear and when, was something that we felt we could really honor and provide the right communication solutions to as well as the technology solutions," said Liz Kay, vice president of account services for healthcare at Cramer, Norwood, MA.

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