Telehealth genetic services during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Implementation and patient experiences across multiple specialties in Nebraska

Brianna M.Z. Rezich, Jaime A. Malone, Gwen Reiser, Holly H. Zimmerman, Terri L. Blase, Kristen P. Fishler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the delivery of genetics services. In response to the pandemic, our genetics department offered telehealth visits to all outpatients, regardless of their physical proximity to Omaha, Nebraska. Traditionally, our department did not offer telehealth visits to patient's homes or to patients who lived in close proximity to a genetics clinic. Therefore, we designed a survey to gain insight into the patient experience with remote genetic counseling appointments during the pandemic. Any patient referred to see a genetics provider in pediatrics, prenatal, adult, or cancer between March 16, 2020 and October 28, 2020 was eligible for the study. The survey included both quantitative and qualitative measures to assess patient demographics, patient experience, stressors during the COVID-19 pandemic, and anxiety and depression. We hypothesized that patients would report they received quality care by telehealth despite the presence of COVID-19-related stressors or anxiety/depression. From the 143 survey participants, 80% had their first telehealth appointment during the pandemic. The vast majority (96%) reported that they felt like they received quality care by telehealth. Additionally, more than 93% of participants strongly or somewhat agreed that their genetic providers were attentive to their emotional needs, medical needs, and privacy. Since March 2020, participants reported experiencing several COVID-19-related stressors including fear of illness (86%), feelings of isolation (45%), and safety concerns (33%). Relatively low levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms were recorded using the HADS questionnaire. Despite the prevalence of COVID-19 stressors, depression, and/or anxiety, our participants felt they received quality care via telehealth. In fact, 51% agree that they prefer to receive future genetics services virtually. These results suggest the value of telehealth as an alternative service delivery model, even for local patients, and should be offered for future appointments, beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1233-1243
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Volume30
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • genetic counseling
  • genetics services
  • program evaluation
  • public health
  • service delivery models
  • telehealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)

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