The saying “know thyself” was inscribed on the walls of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in ancient Greece centuries ago, and became synonymous with the idea “be yourself and ignore the critics.” Today, it carries a meaning never before imagined; you can truly know the composition of yourself—your strengths, your weaknesses. Genetic testing is reaching new heights, allowing patients and doctors to be prepared for illnesses decades before any symptoms appear.
There are several direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing options for the general population that informs them of a unique set of results in the categories of ancestry and nonmedical traits (such as the ability to curl your tongue or wet vs. dry earwax) and carrier testing, disease risk, and pharmacogenomics. However, these results are sent directly to the patient without clinical perspective or in cases, physician knowledge that this test has been taken. According to a study published by Genomes2People (G2P), which was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), only 27% of patients that had their genomic testing done by a DTC company actually shared their results with their PCP. Blame it on their idleness, discomfort, lack of time, or personal confidence in their knowledge of genetics, but a vast majority of these patients did not discuss their results with their physician. This is slightly alarming; what if patients take unnecessary actions (drastically change their diet, exercise routine, etc.) without consulting their physicians or truly understanding what these findings mean? The authors of the paper stated that “a minority of consumers share their results with an HCP, most are satisfied with the HCP discussion of results, and both of these outcomes may be related to a consumer’s perception that their results can potentially affect their care.”
Furthermore, another study done by researchers working with G2P found that consumers reported lower confidence in their genetics knowledge after DTC personal genomic testing. The authors of the paper stated that “through the process of personal genome testing…participants improved their genetics knowledge and perhaps became aware of previously unrecognized complexities of genetics, thus becoming less confident in their understanding.” This means that people that ordered DTC genetic testing felt that the complexity of their genomes may have been too much to handle on their own without the consultation of a medical professional. While these DTC genetic tests try to simplify the reports that the patients receive, trying to incorporate this knowledge into their everyday lives becomes complex. Should they run an extra mile if they found out they are at risk for cardiovascular diseases? Should they start taking hypertension medication if they find out they’re at risk for high blood pressure in the future? These are questions patients shouldn’t be answering on their own.
These results, together with the finding that consultation with a PCP after personal genome testing was positively associated with both overall and item-specific change in genetics self-efficacy, suggest that greater engagement of health-care providers (either ones made available by the companies or customers’ own providers) in the testing process may have the potential to positively impact genetics self-efficacy. Unfortunately, many DTC companies encourage their consumers to discuss their results with their PCP, who may not be up-to-date on the latest knowledge in genomics. Additionally, many PCP don’t feel comfortable and feel unprepared to discuss the sensitive and thorough results of the relatively “new” field of genetics in medicine and healthcare.
That’s why, here at New Amsterdam Genomics, we provide you with the resources to make the most of your genetic results. NAG provides you with expert genetic counselors and physicians that are confident in the field of genetic and make sure that you have the tools necessary to make positive changes in your health. We don’t want our users to feel on their own, especially if their genetic results state that they may be at a higher risk for breast cancer or myocardial infarction. Our infrastructure allows for a two-way conversation, where the testee can have an informed discussion with their doctors and genetic counselors. Patients receive a genetic blueprint to help guide them and their physicians in day-to-day choices as well as customized plans for the prevention of illness. With NAG’s test, you can truly “know thyself”, but also know that we’ll be with you every step of the way!