Affordable Access

Publisher Website

Genetic Referral Patterns and Responses to Clinical Scenarios: A Survey of Primary Care Providers and Clinical Geneticists

  • Truong, Tina K.1
  • Kenneson, Aileen1
  • Rosen, Ami R.1
  • Singh, Rani H.1
  • 1 Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA
Published Article
Journal of Primary Care & Community Health
SAGE Publications
Publication Date
Sep 29, 2021
DOI: 10.1177/21501327211046734
PMID: 34583568
PMCID: PMC8485275
PubMed Central
  • Original Research


Introduction: Primary care physicians (PCPs) are considered the gatekeepers of genetic services, but they often underutilize or inappropriately utilize such services, leading to lack of early treatment, incorrect diagnoses, and unnecessary procedures. This study aims to delineate PCP referral patterns, including the frequency of, motivators for, and barriers to genetic referrals and testing in the present landscape of genomics. Methods: A 34-item online survey was distributed to PCPs in the United States (US). PCP demographics, practice characteristics, and referral patterns, motivators, and barriers were analyzed. Six hypothetical clinical scenarios included in the survey also were presented to a cohort of clinical geneticists. We calculated PCPs’ rates of ordering genetic tests and of referral to genetics services in the past year. Rates and responses to clinical scenarios were compared based on respondents’ personal and practice characteristics. Results: A total of 95 PCPs and 25 clinical geneticists participated. Among the PCPs, 79% reported referring and 50% reported ordering genetic testing in the last year. PCPs with genetic counselors (GCs) in their clinic referred at significantly higher rates than those without ( P = .008). White PCPs referred at significantly higher rates compared to Black or African American PCPs ( P = .009). The most commonly reported motivators for referring patients to genetic services were preference for specialist coordination, lack of knowledge, and family’s desire for risk information. The most commonly reported barriers were patient refusal, provider concerns about costs to patients, and uncertainty of when a genetic referral is appropriate. In response to clinical scenarios, clinical geneticists were in agreement about the need for genetic testing or referral for 2 of the scenarios. For these 2 scenarios, only 48% and 71% of PCPs indicated that they would offer genetic testing or referral, respectively. Conclusions: Responses to clinical scenarios suggest that it is not clear to PCPs when referrals or testing are needed. Collaboration with GCs is one approach to reducing barriers to and improving PCPs’ utilization of genetic services. Clear guidelines from clinical geneticists may help facilitate appropriate use of genetics services by PCPs. Additional research is needed to further describe barriers that PCPs face in genetic testing/referrals.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times