Genetic testing to be future hospital cost driver

Spending on genetic testing could rise sharply in the coming years, possibly adding another cost burden to hospitals, reports Bloomberg News.

A study published by UnitedHealth Group predicted the current expenditures on genetic testing could rise from the current $5 billion a year to as much as $25 billion a year by 2021. The health plan's own spending on genetic testing is growing by double-digit percentages annually.

About 1,800 different tests are available for genetic issues, with as many as five new tests becoming available each month, according to the study. Hospitals already conduct genetic testing for issues like Huntington's disease, but the demand for such testing at hospitals will likely climb. Hospitals typically conduct testing based on the issue of clinical utility--whether it improves patient care, the study noted.

The study found that almost 60 percent of doctors worry the cost of genetic tests will be too high, while 19 percent of the more than 1,200 doctors surveyed said they thought such tests would actually lower healthcare costs, FierceHealthIT recently reported.

"We are now in the era of truly personalized care," Reed Tuckson, chief of medical affairs at UnitedHealth, told the LA Times. "However, this also poses significant challenges to a system that is increasingly unaffordable."

Aside from cost issues, patients have expressed concerns about keeping such tests confidential, according to the study.

To learn more:
- check out the study (.pdf)
- read the Bloomberg article
- read the Los Angeles Times article