Short-term costs of integrating whole-genome sequencing into primary care and cardiology settings: a pilot randomized trial

Genet Med. 2018 Dec;20(12):1544-1553. doi: 10.1038/gim.2018.35. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


Purpose: Great uncertainty exists about the costs associated with whole-genome sequencing (WGS).

Methods: One hundred cardiology patients with cardiomyopathy diagnoses and 100 ostensibly healthy primary care patients were randomized to receive a family-history report alone or with a WGS report. Cardiology patients also reviewed prior genetic test results. WGS costs were estimated by tracking resource use and staff time. Downstream costs were estimated by identifying services in administrative data, medical records, and patient surveys for 6 months.

Results: The incremental cost per patient of WGS testing was $5,098 in cardiology settings and $5,073 in primary care settings compared with family history alone. Mean 6-month downstream costs did not differ statistically between the control and WGS arms in either setting (cardiology: difference = -$1,560, 95% confidence interval -$7,558 to $3,866, p = 0.36; primary care: difference = $681, 95% confidence interval -$884 to $2,171, p = 0.70). Scenario analyses showed the cost reduction of omitting or limiting the types of secondary findings was less than $69 and $182 per patient in cardiology and primary care, respectively.

Conclusion: Short-term costs of WGS were driven by the costs of sequencing and interpretation rather than downstream health care. Disclosing additional types of secondary findings has a limited cost impact following disclosure.

Keywords: cardiology; costs; economics; primary care; whole-genome sequencing.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiology / economics
  • Cardiology / trends
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis / economics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing / economics*
  • Genetic Testing / trends
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Primary Health Care / economics*
  • Whole Genome Sequencing / economics*