Telemedicine: The “New Normal” for Genomic Services

By October 29, 2020 Genetic Counseling
cartoon representation of doctors in front of screen

In the years-long integration of telehealth into the health care system, 2020 will definitely be recognized as a tipping point. 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.1

While some medical providers have scaled back their telehealth care as COVID restrictions have eased, many more are seizing the opportunity to make telehealth a significant and permanent part of the way they serve patients. In a recent survey of leading health systems, 100% reported that they planned to pursue virtual/digital health expansion as a revenue growth strategy in the next 18 months.2

At Genome Medical, we’ve been happy to see this—but not surprised. 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.

In fact, we’ve long believed that telemedicine — the delivery of virtual clinical services — is the best way to provide access to genomic care for everyone who needs it. Since Genome Medical was founded in 2016, we’ve been creating new models for telegenetics (virtual delivery of genetic care) and finding the best ways to deliver services via our nationwide network. Our goal is to bridge the longtime access gap that has prevented or delayed many people from receiving the genetic care they need. We are making telegenetics a major part of the “new normal” for genomic care.

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. Our team demonstrated this efficiency during a recent partnership with Kaiser Permanente Northwest (KPNW). Our genetic experts cleared a significant patient backlog in a matter of months by expanding the number of virtual genetic counseling sessions that KPNW could provide. “The thing that Genome Medical does better than anyone else I’ve heard of is actually getting that appointment,” said Christi Roberts, KPNW’s senior practice director. “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.
  •  As underscored by the KPNW experience,  because Genome Medical worked so efficiently through the backlog and helped stabilize patient volume, KPNW was able to shift the number of patients sent to us, and avoid increasing the health system’s in-house staffing levels. 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.

The Telegenomics Leader: How We Work

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 our model include:

  • Rapid access – Our experts can 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.3 More specifically, this translates into faster time to service for up to 85% of cancer patients (compared to traditional genetics clinics).4
  • Flexible solutions – We can tailor our services to the needs of the hospitals, health systems, medical providers and others we 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 – We provide curated content to both patients and providers to help them understand genetic conditions, testing and potential clinical outcomes. This includes our 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 – We offer online tools that help identify individuals at increased risk for a genetic condition.
  • Guidance toward specialty care – Along with recommending appropriate testing, our experts can guide patients toward clinically relevant specialty care.
  • Clinical integration – The patient and treating physician receive a personalized clinical action plan, and our experts collaborate to support the appropriate use of genetics and genomics in clinical decision-making.

During this challenging time when our health care systems are facing overload as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critically important that individuals have access to telehealth services. 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.

As a nationwide telegenetics medical practice licensed in all 50 states, Genome Medical stands ready to provide virtual genetic services that can help patients, providers and health care systems in need of assistance.

Work with Us

If you, your patients or your organization could benefit from any of the telegenetics services we offer, we’d be happy to talk with you. Please get in touch and let us know how we can help.