Benefits of clinics using medical DNA testing
There are many reasons why medical clinics should considering adopting DNA testing to benefit their patients. Perhaps somewhat controversially, we will start the Merogenomics list of benefits with the financial reasons for our justifications.
DNA testing – new to a clinic’s important income stream
The top benefit for the healthcare clinics that are interested in incorporating medical DNA testing in their practice is that it is an additional source of income for the clinic. You might wonder why this should make the top of the list instead of something like improved patient care?
It is because the vast majority of doctors are already aware that DNA testing has had a huge impact in helping patients. We have covered these topics extensively, both in terms of DNA testing for rare medical conditions or DNA testing for health predisposition (screening of healthy individuals).
But the problem is that many doctors are not familiar enough with this technology and how to best implement it in their practice. The next-generation sequencing technology is barely over decade old (originally the cost was too prohibitive anyway) and a majority of doctors never had training in the application of DNA sequencing. As a consequence, doctors of all types often feel they lack genomic literacy and are unprepared to use or interpret medical DNA testing.
Primary care physicians and specialists who do not have genetic training are sometimes not comfortable communicating DNA test results to their patients even if the test includes only a single gene. So imagine jumping on board with the complexity of such tests when they include gene panels or full genome sequencing.
What this means is we are encountering a bottle-neck effect, with doctors paralyzed in regards to adopting DNA testing in their practice, but it is expected that in order to materialize the medical benefits of these rapid advances in medical genomics, doctors will soon be increasingly required to order DNA testing for the proper care of their patients.
And as doctors are becoming aware of this there needs to be a solution to overcome this impasse.
This is why Merogenomics has chosen to focus first on the financial benefits of DNA testing - so that any clinic’s financial manager would have a smart way to persuade doctors to start addressing their concerns regarding DNA testing. We have more to mention below, but we think that a financial incentive is a good start to get doctors to at least review the information concerning how medical DNA tests could be utilized profitably.
After all, clinics are very expensive to run and manage and the general public often neglects to consider that - they often assume as they walk into a clinic to get help that the doctor just gets richer but the cost of running your average clinic are huge!
On top of this, doctors are be under increased financial pressure from budget cuts to healthcare, making the situation even more challenging. Case in point, the 2020 budget cuts here in Alberta are leading to a reduction in doctor payments per patient and the pressure for doctors can be immense and public often is unaware. Having a new revenue stream would decrease some of this pressure.
Therefore if you can actually discuss the introduction of a technology into a clinic that can positively impact the well being of clinics’ patients while providing a good source of income, then clinics’ business managers should take notice and start whispering into their clinic’s doctor’s ear: how would you feel about using medical DNA testing?
What we at Merogenomics want, is to tie these points together: that DNA testing is a new tool to benefit patient care and also new income source to benefit the clinic.
First we considered the obvious financial one now let us list all the other benefits. We will list them in a specific type of order which closely follows both the clinic set up journey and the patient servicing journey.
Catalog of DNA testing services
Merogenomics offers clinics access to an entire array of different medical DNA testing services from a variety of top quality service providers. This is one of the best values for a clinic for number of reasons:
- We do not need to resort to high pressure marketing on behalf of a particular company. We are not employed by them. Instead, we work with multiple companies that offer some of the best medical DNA testing in the world and we can match clinics with DNA tests specific to their needs
- Doctors can pick the type of tests that best match their personal interests. In fact, we are huge advocates of that because we think that having multiple clinics in same geographical area offering different specialties in DNA testing is better for both the patients and the clinics
- We have aligned ourselves with the service providers of the highest quality medical genetic testing. Focus includes clinical utility and not just having a test. We want to ensure doctors feel secure that the tests are clinical grade. This is another reason why we desired to act as a distributor and not as performance-based employee
- Doctors have the option to use number of different testing options if required even if such testing options are not primarily offered by the clinic. If need be we can jump from a targeted test to one that is much more comprehensive. This allows us to work collectively as a large team of experts, since each DNA test service provider specializes in a niche area of medical genetic testing
We divide our tests into four categories, designated by specific target groups of patients:
- Pregnant women for prenatal testing
- Patients with undiagnosed conditions
- Cancer patients or members of their family
- Presumed healthy individuals for proactive screening
The catalog of available DNA tests is listed below. Contact Merogenomics if you want more information.
Marketing of DNA testing services
Clinics that adopt DNA sequencing are supplied with the marketing material. While DNA testing is now rapidly becoming part of public consciousness thanks to such services as Ancestry or 23andMe (for doctors encountering 23andMe reports , check out that post instead), DNA testing in medical clinics in Canada is still quite rare.
Thus clinics that are first to adopt DNA testing services will have an amazing marketing head start and that should be taken advantage of and clearly stated to visiting patients. There are many marketing advantages for clinics using genetic medical testing that do not have to be overtly stated but that are easily obvious to the consumer.
The time will come when the majority of clinics will offer some form of DNA testing, but we are still at nascent time and clinics adopting such approach will definitely stand out.
Genomic medicine training for clinics
Once a clinic selects its preferred DNA tests and the marketing material is distributed, but before doctors can really delve into the use of individualized medicine based on DNA testing, they need some training - this is another big advantage available to them from Merogenomics.
Remember, due to lack of adequate training, the majority of current doctors feel either unprepared to order DNA clinical tests and/or to manage their patients based on the reported results. But when you are working with a consortium of the top medical genetic testing companies, you can get access to some of the best training in the world.
More good news is that studies suggest that training does not need to be extensive for doctors to quickly grasp the important basics of personalised genomic medicine. In one example, only a few hours with in-person training by medical geneticists was enough for doctors commencing use of DNA sequencing in their practice - both specialists and primary care physicians.
And we also can provide doctors with a checklist to make sure they are comfortably satisfied. At any point along this assessment list for genomic medicine that physicians feel uncertain, we can go back to our service providers for additional resources.
Online DNA testing ecommerce site
To facilitate easy access to information about DNA testing for patients, all clinics are provided with their own online DNA tests site listing the choices available to the patients. The medical genetic tests can be complex in nature and doctors would want to ensure that patients have access to the details of these tests. This is also one of the important steps towards adequate informed consent that we facilitate for all participating patients. By providing a readily available, comprehensive and informative online platform for test purchases, we try to make it as simple as possible for all participating parties.
Before clinics can start offering tests online they consult with Merogenomics so price points can be determined to take advantage of the best ways that clinics can generate new income.
Patient’s informed consent is vital before DNA testing
A patient’s informed consent is one of the hallmarks of the appropriate, professional delivery of medical care, and DNA services are no different. All guidelines on the provision of genomic medicine clearly stipulate the importance of a patient’s informed consent is one of the top priorities. However, all doctors know how difficult it is to provide adequate informed consent for any types of testing, due to time constrains and often the complexity of information. Merogenomics prides itself and was build around a focus of helping provide the patient with important information toward adequate, informed consent. We always propose that patients should contact Merogenomics first for educational information on any preferred DNA testing prior to deciding about the purchase of the test, and then discussing the topic with their selected doctor afterwards. This ensures that important educational information is delivered to patients but the participating doctor does not have to invest time on the minutia of the test, and rather can devote their time to topics more relevant to their provision of care.
Clinical support for doctors using medical DNA testing
As we already mentioned above, doctors might worry when to initiate a test, worry how to properly interpret the test or worry how to use the report results to the patient’s best interest. As a consequence, they are actually quite grateful for the doctor-specific training and information on DNA testing that they receive from the commercial laboratories that partner with their clinics, filling in the desperately needed knowledge gap. Primary care doctors are just too busy to be able to find enough time to learn about DNA testing through the scientific literature but consultations with experts from the laboratories offering the actual medical DNA testing is a convenient substitute and a condensed, expert education. Of course this is not be the only source that doctors rely on - continuing medical education and formal coursework or seminars are a great supplement for any knowledge gap - but direct access to experts in the field that can advise on test result interpretations is an important step forward if Merogenomics wants for genomic medicine to make significant headway in the provision of this new form of primary care, and then have more doctors familiar with use of DNA testing.
It is also advantageous to doctors to be able to access support and advice from different companies and as each one of these DNA testing service providers have a number of medical genetics experts on staff, and available among the different companies, there will be very wide array of different clinical experts available. And we are very proud to be working with some of the most prestigious genomics companies in the world. This is a very important source of pride for Merogenomics to be able to bring such quality to participating clinics.
To illustrate what we are talking about, Merogenomics works with these leaders: one of the world’s most advanced clinical full genome sequencing company; a world leader in medical gene panels and exome sequencing; the highest standard of pharmacogenetics company; the most complete and most advanced non-invasive prenatal testing; and we are building a relationship with what we regard as the most comprehensive tumor molecular profiling test. All of these companies have their own experts in these specific niches of DNA testing, which allows a very comprehensive coverage for clinical support that is available to doctors.
DNA test financing for patients
Quality medical genomic testing is not to be considered lightly or come cheap. While the cost of decoding the DNA sequence has substantially come down allowing for some very cheap DNA tests on the market, it is the important interpretation of the test that still holds substantial complexity, and this is especially true when it comes to clinical use of DNA sequencing, which can significantly impact the cost of genetic testing, whether it is the full genome sequencing cost or a simpler DNA test cost.
However, one of the important drivers towards equitable access to healthcare is ensuring that the genetic testing cost is not a barrier to patients. Merogenomics offers the patients of the participating clinics access to financing that allows monthly payments for the test of their choice or need. For those that might qualify but that are in obvious medical need, Merogenomics can advocate on patients behalf towards heavily discounted or even free DNA test. The goal is to ensure that service access is most widely available to the most patients.
This last point is actually a very important message to all the doctors, not matter if they participate in any delivery of medical DNA testing. In our discussions with doctors, we know that everyone comes across these cases where the patient can be strongly suspected of having a genetically related condition but nothing can uncovered oftentimes for many years. Some of these cases are dire, and we might have access to important solutions for them so it is worthwhile to keep the new tool of technology in mind.
These are Merogenomics’ top reasons why clinics could consider adopting medical DNA testing in their practice. The goal of Merogenomics was to develop a program that would allow ease of set up for clinics with appropriate support and protection for both the doctors and the patients.
If you are a healthcare practitioner or a clinic manager and want more information, please contact Merogenomics. We will get you up and running fast so that you and your patients can collect the benefits of medical DNA testing as soon as possible.
This article has been produced by Merogenomics Inc. and edited by Jason Chouinard, BSc. Reproduction and reuse of any portion of this content requires Merogenomics Inc. permission and source acknowledgment. It is your responsibility to obtain additional permissions from the third party owners that might be cited by Merogenomics Inc. Merogenomics Inc. disclaims any responsibility for any use you make of content owned by third parties without their permission.
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