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Revolutionizing Fertility Tech

An Interview with Melody Adhami, CEO, Pollin Fertility
Jana Pijak
March 14th, 2024

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Business, Health, Tech
Melody Adhami is co-founder and CEO of Pollin Fertility, an innovative health-tech company in Toronto that operates leading fertility clinics powered by its proprietary software designed to increase patient success. The idea for Pollin was built off of Melody’s own reproductive health journey and her desire to change the space for the better. Prior to Pollin, Adhami was the CEO of Havas Canada and co-founder of Plastic Mobile, a leading Canadian mobile development agency known for its groundbreaking work in mobile application development. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Adhami pivoted to healthcare, co-founding FH Health, a technology-driven health solution. Adhami is recognized within Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and has been named among the Top 100 Powerful Women in Tech.

1. What does innovation mean to you?

To me, innovation is the application of new and novel ideas, approaches, and technologies to existing problems or platforms. It’s looking at something that exists and understanding why it works the way that it does. It’s then understanding that thing so well that you can start to imagine how it might work differently. I think today, innovation is generally brought to life through technology, through experience design or through new financial paradigms. But at its core, it’s generally brought to life by new technologies and that’s where I’ve spent the entirety of my career.

2. How do you and your team generate new ideas?

Ideas aren’t the hard part. It’s the sweet spot between ideas and execution. That’s where the magic happens. There are so many variables to consider when implementing and executing new ideas. What is the cost? What is the benefit? What will I not do because I now want to do this new thing? Generally speaking, we have built a big and bold vision for where we want to be and have gone through the very difficult exercise of putting first things first. What do we absolutely need today? What will we build in the future? How will we know that we’ve been successful in what we’ve chosen to build? What do our users feel about what we’re building? This is how we work and we are constantly prioritizing based on the feedback we get every day.

3. What rituals do you rely on to reset creativity?

I can think of 3 things:
1. Have great partners. I love my partners. We discuss, we debate, and we execute. But genuinely we enjoy each other and what we are doing. When you like what you’re doing and who you are doing it with, the creative process becomes much easier, and happier.
2. Walk. Exercise is good for the brain. Forcing yourself to sit behind a desk is probably the worst thing you can do. If you need to reset or just reframe, go for a walk, get outside and just put your mind in a different environment. Solutions tend to hit you when you least expect them.
3. Work out loud. I love my team. They give me energy. Most importantly, I trust that they are going to do what they say they’re going to do. I also trust that they are going to build on the ideas we bring forward. Sometimes if I don’t have the answer I’ll just work out loud. I’ll bring as many people into the problem as possible. I’ll show them how I’m thinking about it. That gets them thinking about it. More often or not they come back and say, “Hey, I think I’ve got an
approach to solve that problem”.

4. What is the biggest challenge you face when innovating?

Prioritization, resource allocation, and time. We live in a world of ideas. There are so many good ones but there is only so much time and so many resources. Sometimes you have to take a big idea and split it into smaller pieces. Sure, it might not start as the big idea you imagine but it lays the foundation and once things get started, there is nothing that can get in the way of a good idea.

5. Has there ever been an instance where another industry influenced innovation at Pollin Fertility?

Other industries are a continual source of inspiration for us. We are always tracking new technologies and continually thinking about how to apply them to Pollin. What was most striking to me about my own fertility journey was how analog the whole process was. From a patient experience, I was perplexed how ordering a Pizza seemed like a more
high-tech experience than navigating my own health care. From a science perspective, it was even worse: notes were handwritten, data that I was asking for wasn’t tracked…and I supposedly was seeing one of the best doctors in North America. I’ve developed software for healthcare giants like Shoppers Drug Mart, and mobile apps for companies like RBC. I knew what was possible and I couldn’t believe it had not yet been applied to Fertility. That was part of why we founded Pollin, the medicine and the patient experience needed to be modernized.

6. Can you elaborate on how Pollin Fertility plans to leverage cutting-edge technology such as AI and machine learning to enhance fertility success rates?

I love this question. Our mission is to achieve the highest fertility success rates in the world (80% or higher) and the only way this can be done is through technology. A lot of people ask why we didn’t decide to be a tech company or a fertility clinic, and the answer is that if we couldn’t be both we wouldn’t be able to get the data we need, and the data is the ultimate requirement to improve success rates. We are developing digital tools, machine learning and AI to assist in all aspects of our clinic. We inventory every data point possible, from demographics to lab temperature, time of day etc. This enables us to perform advanced analytics on a level never before done in this industry. The application of AI is what will differentiate us in the future. I couldn’t be more excited about this.

7. How does Pollin Fertility intend to integrate its "digital first" approach into its fertility care services, and what benefits does this offer to patients?

In addition to our plans to use technology to advance fertility medicine, we are also using technology to improve the patient experience. It makes me frustrated that food delivery companies have more advanced technology than fertility clinics. When we started Pollin 2 years ago the first thing we did was gather the requirements to build our own Patient App and EMR (Electronic Medical Record System). We interviewed dozens of former patients, identified the pain points in their journey and developed a system that increases patient safety, provides greater transparency and ultimately puts the patient in control of their experience.

8. How does the brand ensure that medical expertise and patient care remain central to its operations amidst its digital transformation?

You don’t do digital for the sake of digital. You make things digital to enhance the experience of the user. In this case, the user is the patient but most importantly, the doctor, the nursing team and clinical staff. There is a tremendous amount of risk when things are done manually. Human error is one of the number one reasons mistakes get made. Applying digital tools mitigates the risk of human error. It ensures everything is trackable and accurate. Our tools assist our clinical staff, as well as the patient increasing transparency, safety, and convenience. When these 3 things come together it’s magic.

9. Can you speak more about how Pollin Fertility plans to expand its impact on transforming fertility care in Canada moving forward?

Our mission is to achieve the highest success rates in the world and make fertility treatments accessible to as many people as possible. Right now, fertility care is expensive. It’s expensive because of many variables, not the least of which is success rates. When you start to solve for that, you can start to anticipate outcomes and once that happens it’s a game changer.

While this is our future state ambition even in the short term we are working to make fertility care more normalized and accessible. For Fertility Awareness Month we are focused on tackling the stigma that surrounds fertility. 1 in 6 couples in Canada struggles with infertility. Sadly, that struggle happens quietly and is very isolating. We are launching a campaign to normalize the fertility conversation. Our point of view is that all paths to parenthood are natural: IVF, Egg Freezing, LGBTQ couples, Single parent by choice, Surrogate. It’s all natural. We are bringing this conversation into the public domain.

In addition, at the end of the month, we are hosting the first-ever “Smash the Infertility Stigma gala”. We are raising money to help those who can’t afford the expensive treatments by making it a little bit more accessible. To date, we’ve already raised over $500,000 and we are hoping to achieve even more in the next couple of months. Ultimately, we believe there is a world where access to top-tier care is more accessible to all we are building that world even today. One small step at a time.
References: pollinfertility