Practice Notes

How to succeed in genomics? Put physicians in charge!

by Hamza Hasan, Rachel Woods, and Maria Restuccio

Few innovations in health care have gotten as much attention recently as genetic testing. In fact, in 2017 nearly 1 in 25 Americans had access to their genetic data—and many are showing up to their annual wellness visit looking for answers to their genetic test results. Some projections suggest that the direct-to-consumer genetic testing market will triple by 2022.

At the same time, providers report feeling unprepared to interpret test results and council their patients. According to a  recent study in Health Affairs, only 14% of providers feel confident in interpreting the results of genetic tests, and only 25% of providers feel prepared to take care of patients who had undergone genetic testing for common diseases.

So what are medical groups to do?

A lack of physician understanding and skepticism is the biggest barrier that groups face when it comes to incorporating genetic testing into primary care. Medical groups must get ahead of this physician uncertainty by proactively educating their physicians about the growth in patient interest in genetics, by providing guidance on how to interpret test results, and by facilitating appropriate referrals to genetic specialists.

How to prepare physicians to talk about medical genetics

  1. Find a physician leader with relevant clinical skills to serve as a "go-to" peer educator. Choose an existing, respected leader to act as the "chief sales person," who will meet with frontline physicians and help educate peers about advances in medical genetics.

  2. Leverage existing communication structures to reinforce physician learning. By providing education and listening for feedback, groups will start to hear valid physician concerns. Use established lines of communication to answer these concerns.

  3. Support physicians with clinical, operational, and IT resources to help integrate innovation into daily workflow. Ensure that technology and infrastructure, as well as organization culture, can adapt to meet reasonable physician requests and provide seamless ways for physicians to connect patients to specialist, when appropriate.

NorthShore University Health System used these tactics to implement a new process for genetic screening in primary care. The system decided to build a program called "Advanced Primary Care," which uses a Genetic Wellness Assessment to help physicians pinpoint appropriate genomic tests based on a patient's health history. And if a physician doesn't feel comfortable discussing results—he or she can refer the patients to any number of their genetic counselors with just a few clicks.

The bottom line

The first step to prepare your organization to respond to new innovations such as direct-to-consumer genetics is building a system for educating frontline physicians. To learn more about how other medical groups have implemented innovation to meet their unique business challenges, attend our 2018-2019 MGSC national meeting series.

 

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