Vanderbilt University survey clinicians on pharmacogenomic attitudes

It’s often said that the biggest barrier to integrating genomics into routine healthcare, is healthcare itself. There are doubts over how well equipped clinicians are to manage genomic data, or act on genomic test results. If you’ve been to any of the big conferences this summer, you’ve likely heard “we need to educate clinicians” said by more than a few speakers. What we tend to hear a little less often is what clinicians think themselves.

A group from Vanderbilt University conducted a survey assessing attitudes of clinicians following large-scale pharmacogenomics implementation. The results make for a very interesting read, so make sure you head over to The Pharmacogenomics Journal and have a read.

The clinicians surveyed were all participants in the institutional pharmacogenomics program: PREDICT (Pharmacogenomic Resource for Enhanced Decisions in Care & Treatment). PREDICT was set up to help empower patients and doctors with the genetic information to predict drug response, and ultimately incorporate genetic data into electronic medical records.

Responses were collected on preparedness to order pharmacogenomic testing, perception of clinical utility, preparedness to receive results, and responsibility for results. The analysis showed that clinicians generally felt supported by the program to use test results in clinical practice. However, things get a little more confusing when it comes to taking responsibility for results. There’s no general consensus on who should contact who, and who should be responsible for clinical action.

The full results are quite telling. Clearly programs like PREDICT are doing a good job in helping clinicians feel more comfortable with these kinds of tests. They also suggest that the perceived lack of education might not be quite so bad as some would have you think. The real barrier at the moment is in how to action results. Once a clear and agreed upon procedure is in place, responsibility can be assigned appropriately. This would take us an important step toward the successful integration of genomics into modern healthcare practice.

The authors do note the limitations of the study, and that the results may not be representative of the general practitioner population. That being said, it is still a very interesting piece of work that should be followed up. So in case you missed it earlier on, here’s the link again. This kind of work helps identify the barriers that need addressing very efficiently.