Advances in Genetic Counseling – During the COVID-19 Pandemic

2020 will always be remembered as a turning tipping point in the history of healthcare and other industries. We’ve seen many new emerging technologies, trending techniques and innovative solutions to the usual norm of world functioning.

Among all these emerging technologies, one that specifically stood out in genetic counseling and perhaps also other areas of healthcare is “Telehealth”. Here’s highlighted study data by one of the leading genomic technology, services and strategy company : Genome Medical.

Telehealth is an especially good fit for medical specialties where patient information can be collected and reviewed ahead of time and where a physical exam and patient vital signs aren’t absolutely required. In addition to mental health services and medical specialties such as dermatology, genetic services fall squarely into this category.

  • Starting in the second quarter, millions of people participated for the first time in virtual visits with their health care providers. While the impetus was the COVID-19 pandemic, indications are that many patients appreciate the convenience and safety that virtual care offers. A McKinsey survey in May found that 76% of respondents said they were interested in using telehealth for future care.
  • Genome Medical announced recently that  its virtual genetic services are now available in-network to nearly 90 million people through payer contracts across the country. This accelerated availability of on-demand genetic expertise will expand the application of genome-enabled health care and precision medicine to benefit more patients.  

The 90 million covered lives are across multiple payers, including (in part):

  • Cigna (national)
  • United Healthcare (California)
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in eight states (Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington)
  • Kaiser Permanente Northwest
  • Priority Health
  • MultiPlan
  • Three Rivers Health
  • Here’s what Genome Medical had to say on how they achieved desired results:
  • “Genome Medical brings together telemedicine and genomics to tackle the rising need for genetic experts to guide patients and providers in making appropriate decisions around
  • 1) who should get genetic testing,
  • 2) which test is optimal and
  • 3) how clinical care should be changed based on test results,” said Steven B. Bleyl, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer of Genome Medical.
  • “Patients can be seen sooner, and through telehealth, we extend the reach of genetic services to rural communities and undeserved areas that have less access to in-person care. Genome Medical is a flexible and cost-effective solution for payers and their members.”

Genome Medical can see 85% of cancer patients more quickly than in a traditional clinic setting. And in areas like pediatric genetics, where wait times of six months or more for an appointment are common, Genome Medical’s growing clinical team can often see patients within a few days.

Telegenetics Advantages

  • Efficiency – Virtual service delivery allows health systems and hospitals to serve more patients more quickly because appointment capacity can be rapidly adjusted to match patient volume.
  • Genome Medical: “Not only are they reaching out to the member within 48 hours, but they’re also seeing the patient within one to two weeks, depending on acuity. It’s not uncommon in many places across the country for a patient to wait six months to get a genetic counseling appointment.”
  • Cost-effectiveness – Telegenetics reduces costs for training, staffing and retaining genetic experts. An outsourced telegenetics model like Genome Medical can provide annual cost savings of $50,000 or more per full patient caseload (similar to what would be handled by an FTE in-house genetic counselor).
  • Convenience – Telegenetics lets individuals access care easily and safely from the comfort of their own homes, and allows health care providers to consult rapidly with genetic experts when needed.

It just makes sense—and never more than right now, when health systems are challenged to re-establish contact with patients who may have put off appointments for genetic care because of pandemic-related safety concerns.

 What does the Genome Medical telehealth delivery look like:

Through its Genome Care DeliveryTM platform, Genome Medical offers comprehensive, end-to-end services to meet the needs of health systems, hospitals, payors, providers and employers nationwide. Our clinical team of genetic specialists includes genetic counselors, medical geneticists, primary care physicians and pharmacists. They have deep expertise across six major clinical areas: cancer, cardiovascular disease, reproductive health, pediatric genetics, pharmacogenomics and proactive health management.

Key elements of their model include:

  • Rapid access – experts typically consult with patients within 24-48 hours—compared with a typical wait time of at least one month, and often even longer, to see a genetic expert in person.  
  • Flexible solutions – They tailor services to the needs of the hospitals, health systems, medical providers and others they serve, whether by providing overflow care, initiating new genetic services or other options. Flexibility is especially important right now, as the health care system navigates the uncertainty, fluctuating patient volumes and other challenges of the pandemic.
  • Education – Provide curated content to both patients and providers to help them understand genetic conditions, testing and potential clinical outcomes. This includes Genome Care Navigator™, an innovative technology that connects patients with an automated, video-based education and informed consent process to boost adoption of recommended genetic testing in reproductive health, cancer and other areas.
  • Online assessment – Offer online tools that help identify individuals at increased risk for a genetic condition.
  • Guidance toward specialty care – Along with recommending appropriate testing, experts can guide patients toward clinically relevant specialty care.
  • Clinical integration – The patient and treating physician receive a personalized clinical action plan, and their experts collaborate to support the appropriate use of genetics and genomics in clinical decision-making.

The above was just one such recent update in the news for Genetic services and we only hear more and more of such services emerging in our industry of patient care.

Genetic services play a critical role in life-saving decisions, such as testing to inform surgical decisions and chemotherapy selection for cancer patients, and determining a diagnosis for patients with rare genetic conditions. It is necessary to continue these services and to move them to virtual care during this pandemic. Not only does this help keep patients safe, it also helps our health systems and hospitals look to move all non-essential services offsite.

10 Key takeaways of a Genetic Counseling student

Here’s an interesting article i found on one of the blogs, where a current student shares her learning from wanting to be a genetic counselor to being a grad student:

“I was first introduced to genetic counseling as a junior in college. I was immediately drawn to this career because it gives me an opportunity to communicate science in a practical, applicable, and interesting way. After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I worked as a genetic counseling assistant while I applied to genetic counseling programs.

“Interested in becoming a genetic counselor? Here is what I have learned so far:”

  1. Even though patients don’t always come back for follow-up sessions, 30 minutes can be enough time to make a long-lasting change in a patient’s life.
  2. There’s a time to be directive and a time to be non-directive. Gauging a patient’s needs at the beginning of the appointment is a big part of the job.
  3. Sometimes we are expected to play the role of genetics “expert” more than counselor. Patients and other providers may look to us to explain genetics concepts.
  4. There is a huge variety of career choices available when you have a genetic counseling degree – non-traditional roles are being invented all the time!
  5. Sometimes, it isn’t about reaching a definitive decision at the end of the session but about helping the patient realize what their personal values are.
  6. Although genetic counselors tend to be well-respected members of the healthcare team, our roles aren’t always clearly defined – there are lots of opportunities for educating other providers on our field.
  7. People rarely know what the career is when I tell them why I’m going to grad school. I’ve had many opportunities to polish my mini-explanation of genetic counseling!
  8. Our job isn’t to make the choice for the patient but to help the patient reach the choice that’s best for them.
  9. There are many more opportunities for public speaking and educating than I initially thought!
  10. Although there’s a common personality type that you see among genetic counselors, there is so much diversity in counseling strategy, communication style, and interpersonal relations. I am constantly learning new ways to approach a situation.

source: https://blogs.bcm.edu/

Resource Highlight

Resource Highlight

Hello Guys, it’s been long since my last article. Today, on spotlight is a resource website that I found very useful to brush my knowledge and basics on Genetics, genetic counseling and also staying updated with latest topics and articles related to Genetics and health.

For the ones who have already guessed from the header image this is the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”.

Their website has vast and broad variety of information related to health and genetics and I really loved the amount of emphasis their website pays to genetics and Genetic counseling.

Below I have included a few snaps from their website which also shows their website address on top and the navigation menu on the left hand side of the image. Hope you all find this useful for the application and interview times:

STEP 1: GENOMICS & PRECISION HEALTHGenetics 101

website link
On the same page as above, if you scroll down you will also find below image details of other resource websites and links to the same:

STEP 2: GENOMICS & PRECISION HEALTHFamily History

STEP 3 : GENOMICS & PRECISION HEALTHGenetic Counseling and Testing

Now this section has a few sub sections which perhaps is more specifically tailored to genetic counseling:

STEP 4: GENOMICS & PRECISION HEALTHGenomics and Health Topics

This is an interesting section again where you will find information and resources related to various genetic conditions, diseases and lots and lots more of data. I find myself being updated with current research by visiting this section frequently:

I hope this article was informative and I will be working on including more such articles on my blog on a regular basis. Do let me know if you have any suggestions or any content you would like to see in specific 🙂