HumanInsight Improvement in cystic fibrosis newborn screening program outcomes with genetic counseling via telemedicine
Pediatr Pulmonol. 2023 Sep 15. doi: 10.1002/ppul.26678. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CF Foundation) recommends the provision of genetic counseling (GC) to help educate families and decrease anxiety around the cystic fibrosis (CF) newborn screening process. Unfortunately, access to genetic counselors is limited, especially for CF trained genetic counselors. We hypothesized that the GC process for families could be improved by utilizing telemedicine to leverage the availability of two dedicated, CF trained genetic counselors to provide access to GC for several CF centers. In addition, we hoped to demonstrate that use of trained CF genetic counselors, delivering GC via telemedicine at the time of sweat testing, would provide families with understanding of CF genetics as well as result in high satisfaction with the newborn screening process.
METHODS: GC was provided by CF trained genetic counselors via telemedicine at the time of sweat testing. Following the counseling session, families were administered an anonymous written survey to evaluate their impression of the services provided. A subset of 50 families was recruited for an assessment of gained knowledge regarding CF genetics using the Ciske knowledge inventory. Using χ2 analysis, Ciske knowledge inventory data from our telemedicine GC families was compared to counseled and uncounseled Ciske historical controls. Lastly, in-depth interviews about the newborn screening process for CF were performed with 10 families and interviews were coded for emerging themes.
RESULTS: During the 4 years of the study, 250 patients received GC. Overall comfort with the counseling rated 4.77 out of 5 using a Likert scale. After counseling by telemedicine, parents demonstrated improved understanding of the genetic implications of an abnormal CF newborn screen for their family, with 100% of families understanding that their child was a carrier for CF as compared to 97.2% of counseled (p = .023) and 78.5% of uncounseled (p = .0007) from Ciske historical controls. The study group also showed improvement in understanding of both parents possibly being carriers, with an 87.7% correct response rate compared to a 37.0% correct response rate in the counseled group (p < .0001) and a 35.4% correct response rate in the non-counseled group (p < .0001) from Ciske historical controls. Subgroup analysis at one site showed a significant increase in the number of infants with completed sweat tests from previous years (49% in 2013 vs. 80% in 2017 during the study, p < .0001).
CONCLUSIONS: GC by telemedicine was well received by families and demonstrated improved family knowledge acquisition and understanding of CF as it related to risks for their child as well as identification of risks for other family members. Furthermore, in addition to an increase is those receiving GC, a subgroup analysis demonstrated a significant increase in the number of infants receiving sweat tests. This study demonstrates that GC via telemedicine for CF is feasible and demonstrates improvement in parent understanding of CF genetics. Furthermore, this method can be implemented effectively across a wide geographical area with a limited number of CF trained genetic counselors to improve access to care for patients and families.
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