Patients are becoming more open to genetic testing as awareness and accessibility increases and genetic testing costs get cheaper, according to preliminary results from a new survey.
The Wamberg Genomic Advisors (WGA) survey was fielded in October 2017 and queried 536 U.S. consumers aged 26 to 64 years to better understand their attitudes toward genetic testing. Data for the survey was collected via an opt-in panel.
The survey showed that 75% of the respondents felt that genetic testing can help people live a longer and better quality of life. Of the respondents, 31% had undergone some form genetic testing in the past and 69% had not. Of those that had genetic testing, 52% found the results useful. Forty-five percent of respondents who had not had genetic testing would like to have it, and 38% were considering it.
“The survey would imply that more genetic testing will lead to more precision medicine-based healthcare provision. This could have an impact on managed care health plans,” says Philip Smalley, MD, chief medical director of WGA.
“The public is very interested in getting genetic testing performed and they feel that genetic testing results can help them live longer and healthier lives,” says Smalley. “Managed care executives might consider that 75% of the consumers polled responded that genetic testing can help people live a longer/better quality of life. With more acceptance by consumers, managed care executives might consider genetic testing as they are designing future employee wellness programs and managed care plans. Genetic testing may help improve patient outcomes, decrease drug side effects, and lower healthcare costs.”
The survey showed a significant increase in the percentage of the population who have undergone some form of genetic testing. A survey conducted by STAT and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in January 2016, showed that only 6% of respondents had genetic testing whereas 31% of respondents in the Wamberg survey claimed they have had genetic testing.
“Our current survey results do seem quite high and possibly related to the ‘opt-in’ survey methodology or possibly related to some misunderstanding in the public about what is a ‘genetic test.’” Smalley says. “Still the results would indicate an increasing trend in genetic testing being done in society.”
As the public, genetic testing providers, and the regulators debate the potential concerns and merits of direct to consumer genetic testing, Smalley points out that the survey showed that more than half of respondents who had genetic testing performed their testing at home.
“Genetic testing for home ancestry research is the most common reason for genetic testing but other types of genetic tests to help prevent disease or better treat an ailment are also commonly motivators for the public to get genetic testing performed,” he says. “It is also reassuring that more than half of the people who have had genetic testing felt the information was useful. Although, this also shows that more efforts are needed to ensure that all forms of genetic testing that is currently being done is valid and clinically useful.”
Based on the survey findings, Smalley has three recommendations for healthcare executives:
1. Keep up-to-speed on the benefits of genetic testing as well as cost. “Also managed care execs need to realize there is public interest pertaining to genetic testing of various forms,” he says.
2. Be aware that some patients have a certificate for a pre-paid test. Patients can obtain a certificate through an employer via a voluntary benefit program, or through a life insurance carrier to get their genetics evaluated with the hope that this information will improve quality of life and enhance longevity.
3. Get familiar with the current types of genetic testing. These include whole genome sequencing to help prevent diseases and pharmacogenomic testing to more effectively treat patients and avoid drug side effects. “Also, upon cancer diagnosis, getting the cancer genetically profiled through employee benefit programs is being used with the hope that this testing will improve outcomes with new targeted forms of therapies and advance medical research in various clinical trials,” Smalley says.