Web platform vs in-person genetic counselor for return of carrier results from exome sequencing a randomized clinical trial

Barbara B. Biesecker, Katie L. Lewis, Kendall L. Umstead, Jennifer J. Johnston, Erin Turbitt, Kristen P. Fishler, John H. Patton, Ilana M. Miller, Alexis R. Heidlebaugh, Leslie G. Biesecker

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28 Scopus citations

Abstract

IMPORTANCE A critical bottleneck in clinical genomics is the mismatch between large volumes of results and the availability of knowledgeable professionals to return them. OBJECTIVE To test whether a web-based platform is noninferior to a genetic counselor for educating patients about their carrier results from exome sequencing. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS A randomized noninferiority trial conducted in a longitudinal sequencing cohort at the National Institutes of Health from February 5, 2014, to December 16, 2016, was used to compare the web-based platform with a genetic counselor. Among the 571 eligible participants, 1 to 7 heterozygous variants were identified in genes that cause a phenotype that is recessively inherited. Surveys were administered after cohort enrollment, immediately following trial education, and 1 month and 6 months later to primarily healthy postreproductive participants who expressed interest in learning their carrier results. Both intention-to-treat and per-protocol analyses were applied. INTERVENTIONS A web-based platform that integrated education on carrier results with personal test results was designed to directly parallel disclosure education by a genetic counselor. The sessions took a mean (SD) time of 21 (10.6), and 27 (9.3) minutes, respectively. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES The primary outcomes and noninferiority margins (dNI) were knowledge (0 to 8, dNI = -1), test-specific distress (0 to 30, dNI = +1), and decisional conflict (15 to 75, dNI = +6). RESULTS After 462 participants (80.9%) provided consent and were randomized, all but 3 participants (n = 459) completed surveys following education and counseling; 398 (86.1%) completed 1-month surveys and 392 (84.8%) completed 6-month surveys. Participants were predominantly well-educated, non-Hispanic white, married parents; mean (SD) age was 63 (63.1) years and 246 (53.6%) were men. The web platform was noninferior to the genetic counselor on outcomes assessed at 1 and 6 months: knowledge (mean group difference, -0.18; lower limit of 97.5% CI, -0.63; dNI = -1), test-specific distress (median group difference, 0; upper limit of 97.5% CI, 0; dNI = +1), and decisional conflict about choosing to learn results (mean group difference, 1.18; upper limit of 97.5% CI, 2.66; dNI = +6). There were no significant differences between the genetic counselors and web-based platform detected between modes of education delivery in disclosure rates to spouses (151 vs 159; relative risk [RR], 1.04; 95% CI, 0.64-1.69; P > .99), children (103 vs 117; RR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.85-1.36; P = .59), or siblings (91 vs 78; RR, 1.17; 95% CI, 0.94-1.46; P = .18). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE This trial demonstrates noninferiority of web-based return of carrier results among postreproductive, mostly healthy adults. Replication studies among younger and more diverse populations are needed to establish generalizability. Yet return of results via a web-based platform may be sufficient for subsets of test results, reserving genetic counselors for return of results with a greater health threat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-346
Number of pages9
JournalJAMA Internal Medicine
Volume178
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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    Biesecker, B. B., Lewis, K. L., Umstead, K. L., Johnston, J. J., Turbitt, E., Fishler, K. P., Patton, J. H., Miller, I. M., Heidlebaugh, A. R., & Biesecker, L. G. (2018). Web platform vs in-person genetic counselor for return of carrier results from exome sequencing a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 178(3), 338-346. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.8049