Over the next several years, both genetic counseling and telehealth will take on increasingly prominent roles in health care. Genetics informs a growing proportion of medical decision making for cancer prevention and treatment, while telehealth has evolved from a care delivery option of the future to a mainstay of modern health care organizations. Telegenetics, at the intersection of these two forces, will certainly gain a stronger footing in this new landscape.
For organizations to stay competitive as telegenetics becomes standard, they will have to not just offer the service—but do it well.
Strategically designed genetic counseling programs recognize that telegenetics is more than a stopgap to cover a program’s weakness, but rather, an opportunity for program development. While not an identical alternative to inperson genetic counseling, telegenetics has strengths that complement the service and can help to further your program’s goals.
A systematic review of studies evaluating virtual genetic counseling revealed consistently “high levels of patient satisfaction with telegenetics.” Some programs overlook this merit when they focus on the tradeoffs made by foregoing an in-person interaction, and they are then reluctant to pursue telegenetics. In reality, the option can increase patient satisfaction and demonstrate a program’s attention to patient experience.
That being said, a focus on quality is paramount to success. Genetic counselors—along with any other professional providing virtual services—must strive to develop the unique skillsets to communicate effectively and pick up on the nonverbal cues that are muted in virtual interactions.
Disruption promotes adaptation in telegenetics
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, health care was entering a new era of advanced telemedicine. Now, in light of loosened restrictions, temporary reimbursement parity policies, and rapid telehealth adoption across health systems, the crisis may be the impetus to push those reluctant organizations over the edge to develop a more robust telehealth strategy.
Now more than ever, it is clear that having an agile and robust telehealth infrastructure in place is critical to being able to adapt to system-wide disruption.
What’s more, it has traditionally been easy to dismiss telegenetics as just a way to reconcile two services—genetic counseling and telehealth—that are difficult to reimburse at baseline. Innovative programs, however, have pushed beyond this thinking and found opportunities to make this service financially viable.
Telegenetics advances several central goals
When developed strategically, telegenetics can help to achieve several cancer program goals. The service can improve access to genetic counseling and facilitate long-term risk management, satisfy patients, incentivize genetic counselor recruitment to maintain staffing levels, strengthen affiliate relationships, and differentiate your program in the market. Take this opportunity to build a telegenetics service with the future in mind, so that it can evolve and grow alongside your broader genetics program and telehealth strategies.