Genetic Counselors’ Experiences and Interest in Telegenetics and Remote Counseling
In 2009, the National Society of Genetic Counselors Service (NSGC) Delivery Model Task Force defined genetic counseling service delivery models including telephone (genetic counseling provided remotely by telephone) and telegenetics (counseling provided remotely using videoconferencing). Little is known about the experience of genetic counselors practicing telemedicine in the USA. We sought to evaluate perceived satisfaction, advantages, disadvantages, and barriers to the practice and implementation of telegenetics by practicing genetic counselors. A 21-question online survey was distributed via the NSGC’s member directory. Descriptive statistics and a thematic analysis were used to analyze data. A total of 344 surveys were completed of which 235 (68.3%) respondents had delivered genetic counseling via telemedicine and 109 (36.6%) had not. Overall genetic counseling providers who had provided telegenetics were satisfied or very satisfied with their position (91%) and those who were not performing telegenetics were at least slightly interested in a telehealth position (92%).The most common appealing reasons for working in or wanting to work in telemedicine included an innovative approach to healthcare delivery, aspects of remote positions such as the ability to work from home, and flexibility of hours. Unappealing characteristics of telemedicine included the inability to see nonverbals, limited psychosocial counseling, and limited social interaction with colleague that is associated with remote positions. Barriers to implementation of telegenetics were noted by 53% of respondents with the largest barrier being billing and reimbursement. The results of this work suggest that telegenetics service organizations could consider increasing social interactions, attempting to use the preferred method of care (video) to increase ability to see nonverbals, offering flexible work hours, and allowing time to address psychosocial issues as they arise in consultations.