Last year at this time, many of us were preparing for the promise of vaccines and asking when the COVID-19 pandemic would end. Fast forward to today, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to pivot away from a crisis mentality and get more comfortable living with a persistent public health issue. Over the last year, as we have started to shift our perspective, some key trends have begun to emerge.
People are getting more comfortable receiving healthcare outside of a facility.
As individuals start to resume medical appointments – after pausing them in 2020 and early 2021 – they aren’t just making arrangements to visit physician offices or clinics. Telehealth care options are providing opportunities to access certain types of services more easily, including genomic testing and counseling.
Genomic testing can enable more precise and proactive clinical treatments for a variety of rare conditions as well as common conditions, including cancer, cardiology, and maternity care. However, the effective application of genomics requires specialized knowledge and training. Primary care providers, along with health plans, frequently struggle with how to optimize the application of genomics, navigate its complexity, and keep up with the pace of innovation. For example, 36% of providers reported not feeling confident when offering information about BRCA1/2-related cancer risks, and 56% were not confident with medical management after BRCA gene testing–which can present challenges in providing the optimal care plan personalized to the individual.
Fortunately, advances in telehealth technology and the mechanics of testing have expanded access to genomic experts and clinical tests. As demand for genomic services increases, health plans need a way to manage them at scale, so providers and patients can get the information they need when they need it to make well-informed care decisions.
Over the course of the past year, InformedDNA continued to refine our solutions to help health plans, providers, and patients improve their understanding and application of genomics and access the resources they need more easily and quickly. With our deep and broad expertise, we’re able to provide holistic solutions that translate the newest science into easy-to-navigate programs. Our solutions have always been offered through a telehealth model. In 2021, we provided our 100,000th genetic counseling session via telehealth. Since we are well-versed in providing virtual and telephone services, we can easily weave our offerings into different care delivery models.
The definition of patient-centered care is evolving.
Patient-centered care has long been a priority for healthcare organizations. Five years ago, that mostly meant involving patients in care decisions, streamlining access to in-person appointments, and making the care experience more convenient. However, like so much of healthcare, the concept of patient-centered care has changed in recent years. Now, genomics is critical to personalizing care since so many conditions have a genetic component. Consistently providing access to genetic testing, education, and counseling have become foundational for a patient-centered approach.
When health plans are intentional in how they incorporate genomic medicine and education, they foster more personalized care for their members. Direct access to genomics experts who can explain the benefits, limitations, and risks of tests specific to certain conditions gives members a high-touch, satisfying experience. At InformedDNA, our genetic counselors have the ability and insights to support patients as they digest and apply genetic and genomic information. By providing these services via a telehealth model, we make the care more convenient, which further supports the patient-centered experience.
Increasing diversity within genomics is an ethical imperative.
There have long been inherent biases in medicine when it comes to care access, treatment, and follow-up. And those inequities extend to every type of care, including those involving genomics. Some of the barriers that exist for certain populations include limited access to genetic testing, struggles with affordability when insurance coverage is lacking, language barriers that prevent the understanding of test importance and results, and a distrust of the pharmaceutical industry based upon atrocities that have happened in the past. In some cases, the genetic tests themselves are biased. As of 2019, 78 percent of the people included in the most well-known type of genomic research — genome-wide association studies (GWAS) — were of European ancestry. However, Europeans and their descendants make up just 12 percent of the world’s population.
Bias in genetic testing and genomic medicine can lead to physicians prescribing treatments and therapies that may not be appropriate for people from specific populations, and this could potentially exacerbate health inequalities that already exist. As an industry, our goal should be to make genomics accessible and relevant for every person. Throughout 2021, InformedDNA has been engaged in discussions with the genomics community about the wide-reaching inequities and what to do about them. We are actively working on developing action plans that support diversity, specifically in terms of how the field identifies participants for genetic research. Tackling this issue will require a long-term commitment, and there are no easy answers, but we are excited to be part of the conversations and hope to move the field forward toward more equitable and accessible care.
InformedDNA has made some exciting changes to remain at the forefront of the trends described above.
First and foremost, we have new senior leadership helping refine and advance our customer-first approach. We are also building new technology-driven tools that keep patients at the center while expanding our reach and impact in the genomics space. Looking ahead, as we increase our knowledge and expertise across the healthcare continuum, we are expanding our ability to help health plans, providers, pharmaceutical companies, and patients understand and apply genomics to enable more informed and effective care.
We would be remiss if we didn’t thank all of our clients, partners, advisors and friends for your support, without whom none of this is possible. We consider you all a part of the InformedDNA “Chromie” family.
If you’d like to learn more about InformedDNA and the expert genetics services we offer for health plans, healthcare providers, or pharmaceutical companies, please get in touch – just fill out the short form below, or give us a call: 844-846-3763.