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

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Vickie Venne. Thank you. We continue to work on that. One of the interesting things that we’ve done, which is the brainchild of Renee, is shared medical appointments.

Renee Rider. We have now created 4 group appointments for people who have concerns surrounding cancer. One group is for people who don’t have cancer but have family members who have cancer who may be the best testing candidate. For example, that might be a 30-year old who tells you that her mother had breast cancer at age 45 years. Her mother is still living, but she’s never had genetic testing. We would put her in a group where we discuss the importance of talking to the family members and encouraging them to go get that first genetic evaluation in the family.

Our second group is for people who don’t have cancer themselves, but have a family history of cancer and those affected relatives have passed away. The family needs a genetic evaluation, and the veteran is the best living testing candidate.

That group is geared towards education about the test and informed consent.

The third group is for people with cancer who qualify for genetic testing. We provide all of the information that they need to make an informed decision on having (or not having) genetic testing.

The final group is for people who have family histories of known genetic mutations in cancer genes. Again, we provide them with all of the information that they need to make an informed decision regarding genetic testing.

With the shared medical appointments, we have been able to greatly increase the number of patients that we can see. Our first 3 groups all meet once a week and can have 10 or 12 veterans. Our last group meets every other week and has a maximum of 6 veterans. Wait times for our groups are generally ≤ 2 weeks. All veterans can choose to have an individual appointment if they prefer. We regularly get unsolicited feedback from veterans that they learn a lot during our groups and appreciate it.

Our group appointments have lowered the wait time for the people in the groups. And, they’ve lowered the wait time for the people who are seen individually. They’ve allowed us to address the backlog of patients waiting to see us in a more timely manner. Our wait time for individual appointment had been approaching 6 months, and it is now about 1.5 months.

We also think that being in a group normalizes the experience. Most people don’t know anyone who has had genetic testing. Now, they are in a group with others going through the same experience. In one of my groups, a male veteran talked about his breast cancer being really rare. Another male in the group volunteer that he had breast cancer, too. They both seemed to appreciate not feeling alone.

Vickie Venne. I want to move to our final piece. What do the referring providers tell the patients about a genetics referral and what should they expect?


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