(Reuters Health)—Patients who order direct-to-consumer genetic tests report mixed experiences when they take the results to their doctors, a new study found.
About a quarter of people who ordered direct-to-consumer genetic testing from such companies as 23andMe reported discussing the results with their primary care doctors. But nearly one in five were not at all satisfied with the conversations, researchers report.
How doctors react to patients’ direct-to-consumer genetic test results matters, said senior author Dr. Robert Green, director of the Genomes2People Research Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“Even if doctors want to make intellectual points, which is their prerogative, I think they can do it in ways that a) respects their patient and b) finds a teachable moment around health issues that dovetails with the patient’s interests,” he told Reuters Health.
Direct-to-consumer genetic testing allows people to order tests from the comfort of their own homes without a doctor’s permission. The results can provide information about ancestry; non-medical traits, such as tongue curling; and health risks, such as diabetes—as well as how a person might respond to certain drugs, write the researchers in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration halted health analyses from the popular direct-to-consumer genetic testing company 23andMe. But those kinds of tests are available in other countries and will likely be available in the U.S. again, Green said.
In the meantime, companies in the U.S. can still run the tests and provide consumers with raw genetic data. But it’s difficult for patients to obtain an analysis of that data.
To see how patients felt about discussing their results with their doctors, the researchers surveyed new 23andMe and Pathway Genomics customers between March and July 2012. Overall, they had data from 1,026 customers.
Of those, 63% said they planned to share their results with their primary care doctors—and six months later, 27% had done so. Another 8% reported sharing the results with other healthcare providers.
The majority of customers didn’t ultimately share their findings and said the results either weren’t important enough or they didn’t have time.
Thirty-five percent of those who shared the results with their primary doctors were very satisfied with the encounter, but 18% said they were not at all satisfied.
Those who had satisfying experiences frequently reported that their doctors understood genetics, willingly discussed the results and didn’t differ in the interpretation of the results.