Laboratory business models and practices: implications for availability and access to germline genetic testing

Genet Med. 2021 Sep;23(9):1681-1688. doi: 10.1038/s41436-021-01184-z. Epub 2021 May 6.


Purpose: Germline testing laboratories have evolved over several decades. We describe laboratory business models and practices and explore their implications on germline testing availability and access.

Methods: We conducted semistructured interviews with key informants using purposive sampling. We interviewed 13 key informants representing 14 laboratories. We used triangulation and iterative data analysis to identify topics concerning laboratory business models and practices.

Results: We characterized laboratories as full-service (FSL), for-profit germline (PGL), and not-for-profit germline (NGL). Relying on existing payer contracts is a key characteristic of the FSL business models. FSLs focus on high-volume germline tests with evidence of clinical utility that have reimbursable codes. In comparison, a key business model characteristic of PGLs is direct patient billing facilitated by commodity-based pricing made possible by investors and industry partnerships. Client billing is a key business model characteristic of NGLs. Because many NGLs exist within academic settings, they are challenged by their inability to optimize laboratory processes and billing practices.

Conclusion: Continued availability of, and access to germline testing will depend on the financial success of laboratories; organizational characteristics of laboratories and payers; cultural factors, particularly consumer interest and trust; and societal factors, such as regulation and laws surrounding pricing and reimbursement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Testing*
  • Germ Cells
  • Humans
  • Laboratories*