A Web-Based Tool to Automate Portions of Pretest Genetic Counseling for Inherited Cancer

J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2020 Jul;18(7):841-847. doi: 10.6004/jnccn.2020.7546.


Background: Increasing demand for genetic testing for inherited cancer risk coupled with a shortage of providers trained in genetics highlight the potential for automated tools embedded in the clinic process to meet this demand. We developed and tested a scalable, easy-to-use, 12-minute web-based educational tool that included standard pretest genetic counseling elements related to panel-based testing for multiple genes associated with cancer risk.

Methods: The tool was viewed by new patients at the Vanderbilt Hereditary Cancer Clinic before meeting with a board-certified genetics professional. Pre- and post-tool surveys measured knowledge, feeling informed/empowered to decide about testing, attitudinal values about genetic testing, and health literacy. Of the initial 100 participants, 50 were randomized to only have knowledge measured on the post-tool survey to assess for a priming effect.

Results: Of 360 patients approached, 305 consented and completed both the pre- and post-tool surveys, with a mean age of 47 years, including 80% female patients and 48% patients with cancer. Survey results showed an increase in knowledge and feeling informed/empowered after viewing the tool (P<.001), but no significant change in attitude (P=.64). Post-tool survey data indicated no difference in median knowledge between low and high health literacy groups (P=.30). No priming effect was present among the initial 100 participants (P=.675).

Conclusions: Viewing the educational tool resulted in significant gains in knowledge across health literacy levels, and most individuals felt informed and empowered to decide about genetic testing. These findings indicate that the use of an automated pretest genetic counseling tool may help streamline the delivery of genetic services.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Risk