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, 68 (3), 225-34

Comparing Genetic Counseling With Non-Genetic Health Care Interactions: Two of a Kind?


Comparing Genetic Counseling With Non-Genetic Health Care Interactions: Two of a Kind?

Ellen Smets et al. Patient Educ Couns.


Objective: Increasingly clinicians other than genetic counselors will advise people with genetic risks. Although some express concerns about this development because of the need for non-genetic clinicians to have additional training, we argue that genetic counseling has more in common with other health care interactions than is generally assumed.

Methods: In this narrative review we investigate the health communication literature taking the perspective that all provider-patient/client interactions share the following goals: forming a relationship, the exchange of information, decision making, promoting health-related behavior and providing support.

Results: We found that both non-genetic and genetic 'disciplines' endorse an egalitarian relationship, based on a patient-centered approach and both have difficulties with attuning to the patients' agendas and enhancing patient understanding. Shared decision making is increasingly the preferred model for geneticists and non-geneticists alike, and both need skills to constructively discuss patients' risk-reducing behavior and provide emotional support.

Conclusion: Rather than developing separate vocabularies and research traditions, the discipline of genetic counseling may benefit by drawing on non-genetic patient-provider interaction research.

Practice implications: Since geneticists face the same challenges as non-geneticists, medical training should continue to improve basic consultation skills, regardless of whether the consultation involves genetic information.

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