The past, present and future of service delivery in genetic counseling: Keeping up in the era of precision medicine

Am J Med Genet C Semin Med Genet. 2018 Mar;178(1):24-37. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.c.31602. Epub 2018 Mar 7.


Precision medicine aims to approach disease treatment and prevention with consideration of the variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person. This focus on the individual is also key to the practice of genetic counseling, whereby foundational professional values prioritize informed and autonomous patient decisions regarding their genetic health. Genetic counselors are ideally suited to help realize the goals of the precision medicine. However, a limited genetic counseling workforce at a time in which there is a rapidly growing need for services is challenging the balance of supply and demand. This article provides historical context to better understand what has informed traditional models of genetic counseling and considers some of the current forces that require genetic counselors to adapt their practice. New service delivery models can improve access to genetic healthcare by overcoming geographical barriers, allowing genetic counselors to see a higher volume of patients and supporting other healthcare providers to better provide genetic services to meet the needs of their patients. Approaches to genetic counseling service delivery are considered with a forward focus to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for genetic counselors in this age of precision health.

Keywords: genetic counseling; precision medicine; service delivery models; workforce.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Counselors*
  • Genetic Counseling / history
  • Genetic Counseling / methods*
  • Genetic Counseling / trends
  • Genetics, Medical
  • Health Workforce
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Precision Medicine
  • Referral and Consultation