Friday, February 8, 2008

Genetic Research - Up to the Task? Educating Health Care Providers

In lively exchanges between bloggers from Gene Sherpas, Genetic Future, and Venture Beat, the ethical implications of private genetic testing and personalized medicine were explored and a number of issues were spotted (see comments from Steve Murphy, David P. Hamilton, and Daniel MacArthur). I find Steve Murphy’s compelling suggestion that physicians in clinical practice lack the time and interest to provide thoughtful guidance to patients on genetic testing and test interpretation both relevant to PredictER's program and worth further assessment.

Like nearly every other academic medical center in the United States, Indiana University (PredictER's home) is interested in determining what a large scale predictive health study would look like. More clearly, researchers are asking: what needs to be in place for a large study to successfully combine genetic information along with other health data and biographical information? To be sure, it could serve as a platform for researchers in almost any biomedical research field, but more to Steve’s point, is it practical or possible to role out a study of this kind in clinics and doctors offices? Is there enough interest and enough time for a primary care doctor to attend to this new type of information?

If there's a deficit of interest and time, this is the moment in which the life sciences community should work to develop both. This not so much a disagreement with Steve’s suggestion as a statement about the ultimate goals of predictive health--there is no doubt that the clinical world of primary care is already pressured to the point of precluding physicians from developing new interests or allotting additional time in their schedules, but balance this fact with the knowledge that the outcomes of predictive health remain to be measured. As the prevalence and usage of these tests increases, so will the understanding of how they are being used and interpreted. So, while many are interested in fostering new research platforms to identify targets for new tests, others (including PredictER) are interested in laying a foundation of ethics outreach, education, and assessment to guide the realization of translational science and personalized medicine. One strategy might be to engage busy, primary care doctors with incentives to pursue relevant continuing medical education prior to initiating fully integrated predictive health projects. To do so, one would need a flexible, responsive curriculum (perhaps an online learning module) available for any physician whose patients are or might be enrolled in a predictive health research study ... but what would issues and subjects would such a curriculum need to address? Here are a few that leap to mind:

- Structure of Predictive Health Studies
A bank containing genetic samples and future research projects drawing on this
- Longitudinal research: from Framingham to today
- Impact on Practice in Primary Care
Personalized medicine: prevention, prognosis, pharmacogenetics
- Ethical Issues
Informed Consent
Vulnerable populations
Recontacting patients
Return of genetic information
Selling genetic information

I'd be interested to see how PredictER Blog's readers would change this list. What do primary care physicians need to know? Any ideas?

1 comment:

Steve Murphy MD said...

Have some ideas...
email me