Assessing patient-level knowledge of precision medicine in a community health center setting

J Community Genet. 2023 Apr;14(2):197-210. doi: 10.1007/s12687-023-00632-4. Epub 2023 Jan 7.


As precision medicine approaches are implemented, cancer treatment decisions have come to require comprehension of genetic tests and their role in risk stratification and treatment options. Acceptance and implementation of precision medicine requires patient understanding of numeracy, genetic literacy, health literacy, and medical trust. Implementing precision medicine in a US federally qualified community health center (FQCHC) setting has received little attention. Using a mixed-methods approach, we sought to identify patient-level factors influencing the understanding of cancer risk and precision medicine among FQCHC patients. We enrolled 26 English-speaking adults aged 40-79 years. Participants enrolled in focus groups and completed surveys to assess patient-level understanding of precision medicine, numeracy, and health literacy. The majority of participants were female (77%) and self-identified as African American (89%). Approximately one-third reported having a high school degree or less. While health literacy was generally high, 42% felt that genes or genetics had little impact on health and most (69%) reported little familiarity with precision medicine. Many participants reported that trust in their providers was extremely or very important when receiving genetic tests. Numeracy levels were moderate, with nearly half reporting some discomfort working with fractions and 38% finding numerical information only occasionally useful. Findings suggest that patients may lack familiarity with precision medicine concepts relevant for understanding cancer treatment decisions. Future educational efforts may help bridge the gap in patient understanding and facilitate equitable opportunities for precision medicine for all patients, including those seeking care from community health centers.

Keywords: Genetic testing; Health equity; Patient knowledge; Precision medicine.