Roundtable

Genomic Medicine and Genetic Counseling in the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense

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The following is a lightly edited transcript of a teleconference recorded in July 2019.


 

Vickie Venne, MS. What is the Genomic Medicine Service (GMS) at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)?

Renee Rider, JD, MS, LCGC . GMS is a telehealth service. We are part of central office and field stationed at the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Salt Lake City, Utah. We provide care to about 90 VAMCs and their associated clinics. Veterans are referred to us by entering an interfacility consult in the VA Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS). We review the consult to determine whether the patient needs to be seen, whether we can answer with an e-consult, or whether we need more information. For the patients who need an appointment, the telehealth department at the veteran’s VA facility will contact the patient to arrange a visit with us. At the time of the appointment, the facility has a staff member available to seat the patient and connect them to us using video equipment.

We provide genetic care for all specialties, including cancer, women’s health, cardiology and neurology. In today’s discussion, we are focusing on cancer care.

Vickie Venne. What do patients do at facilities that don’t get care through GMS?

Renee Rider. There are a handful of facilities that provide their own genetic care in-house. For example, VA Boston Healthcare System in Massachusetts and the Michael E. DeBakey VAMC in Houston, Texas each have their own programs. For veterans who are not at a VA facility that has an agreement with GMS and do not have a different genetics program, their providers need to make referrals to community care.

Vickie Venne. How do patients get referred and what happens at their facility when the patients return to the specialty and primary care providers (PCP)? Ishta, who do you refer to GMS and how do you define them initially?

Ishta Thakar, MD, FACP. Referrals can come at a couple of points during a veteran’s journey at the VA. The VA covers obstetrics care for women veterans. Whenever a PCP or a women’s health provider is doing the initial history and physical on a new patient, if the female veteran has an extensive family history of breast, ovarian, colon, or endometrial cancer, then we take more history and we send a consult to GMS. The second instance would be if she tells us that she has had a personal history of breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer and she has never had genetic testing. The third instance would be whenever we have a female veteran who is diagnosed with breast, ovarian, endometrial, or colon cancer. We would definitely talk to her about genetic counseling and send a referral to GMS. We would ask for a GMS consult for a patient with advanced maternal age, with exposure to some kind of teratogens, with an abnormal ultrasound, a family history of chromosomal disorders, or if she’s seeing an obstetrician who wants her to be tested. And finally, if a patient has a constellation of multiple cancers in the family and we don’t know what’s going on, we would also refer the patient to GMS.

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