Background and objectives: Genetic testing for a variety of diseases is becoming more available to primary care physicians, but it is unclear how useful physicians perceive these tests to be. We examined academic family physicians' perception of and experiences with clinical genetic testing and direct-to-consumer genetic testing.
Methods: This study is an analysis of a survey conducted as part of the Council of Academic Family Medicine Educational Research Alliance (CERA). Academic family physicians in the United States and Canada were queried about their perception of genetic testing's utility, how frequently patients ask about genetic testing, and the importance of genetic testing in future practice and education of students and residents.
Results: The overall survey had a response rate of 45.1% (1,404/3,112). A majority (54.4%) of respondents felt that they were not knowledgeable about available genetic tests. Respondents perceived greater utility of genetic tests for breast cancer (94.9%) and hemochromatosis (74.9%) than for Alzheimer's disease (30.3%), heart disease (25.4%), or diabetes (25.2%). Individuals with greater self-perceived knowledge of genetic tests were more likely to feel that genetic testing would have a significant impact on their future practice (23.1%) than those with less knowledge (13.4%). Respondents had little exposure to direct-to-consumer genetic tests, but a majority felt that they were more likely to cause harm than benefit.
Conclusions: Academic family physicians acknowledge their lack of knowledge about genetic tests. Educational initiatives may be useful in helping them incorporate genetic testing into practice and in teaching these skills to medical students and residents.