Primary care doctors need help talking to patients about genetic tests

DNA genomics precision medicine
Even primary care doctors who have had genetics education say they lack the knowledge and skill to use genetics in the care of their patients. (Pixabay)

While the number of genetic tests is only going to grow, a new study found that many primary care doctors feel ill-equipped to talk to patients about them.

The study, published in Health Affairs, found primary care doctors are optimistic about the benefits of genetic tests but aren’t confident about their ability to work with patients at high risk for genetic conditions or about interpreting test results.

The study makes it clear that primary care doctors need help in order for patients to benefit from genetic discoveries, two of the study’s authors, Diane Hauser and Carol R. Horowitz, M.D., told FierceHealthcare. Both authors are from the Center for Health Equity and Community-Engaged Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Conference

2019 Drug Pricing and Reimbursement Stakeholder Summit

Given federal and state pricing requirements arising, press releases from industry leading pharma companies, and the new Drug Transparency Act, it is important to stay ahead of news headlines and anticipated requirements in order to hit company profit targets, maintain value to patients and promote strong, multi-beneficial relationships with manufacturers, providers, payers, and all other stakeholders within the pricing landscape. This conference will provide a platform to encourage a dialogue among such stakeholders in the pricing and reimbursement space so that they can receive a current state of the union regarding regulatory changes while providing actionable insights in anticipation of the future.
Diane Hauser
Diane Hauser (Icahn School of Medicine)

Researchers surveyed 488 primary care providers in community and academic practice in New York City about their views on genetic testing for chronic diseases. The majority, of whom most were current or recent physicians in training who had formal genetics education, were positive about the use of genetic testing. Yet, despite their education, they indicated they felt unprepared to help their patients.

“We were not surprised,” Hauser says about the survey results. She said she was talking about the study with a friend who had sent her DNA in for testing by 23and Me, the personal genomics company, and found she was at risk for a disease. The friend said she went straight to her primary care doctor for advice and was told, “I don’t know. I’ll have to do some research and get back to you.”

“That’s the situation we want to be able to address,” said Hauser.

RELATED: What the rapid growth of personal genetic testing could mean for health insurers

Horowitz agreed. “I’m a primary care provider. I need help. I need information at my fingertips. To say, ‘I’ll get back to you,’ that doesn’t serve our patients,” she said.

Many of the doctors surveyed were also concerned that genetic testing might lead to insurance discrimination, and they lacked trust in the companies that offer genetic tests.

Carol R. Horowitz
Carol R. Horowitz, M.D.
(Icahn School of Medicine)

The study researchers concluded it is going to take a variety of sources—enhanced training, guidelines, clinical tools and awareness of patient protections—to help support the effective adoption of genomic medicine by primary care providers.

RELATED: Direct-to-consumer genetic tests are a ‘turning point’ for precision medicine, analysts say

For instance, tools within the electronic health record at the point of care will help, Horowitz said. Materials to help educate both providers and patients about the various genetic tests also need to be developed. Both women said they would like to see professional societies and associations offer more guidance for doctors.

With all the discoveries coming down the pike when it comes to genomic medicine, doctors will need support to keep up with the rapidly emerging knowledge, said Horowitz.

It is often primary care providers who help patients with the kinds of chronic conditions that genetic tests can reveal risks for, Horowitz explained. Those doctors need to know about genetics and how to talk to their patients, said Hauser.

Suggested Articles

We need our federal programs and policies to reflect the goal of improving the health of both women and men.

Two lawsuits were filed suing the Trump administration to overturn a new rule that would allow healthcare workers to deny care over religious or conscience…

Policy changes are affecting how investors view the skilled home health market and paving the way for potential strategic acquisitions.