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Study shows genetic testing doesn't increase patients' demand for health services

New research based on electronic health record data suggests that patients who undergo genetic testing do not subsequently request costly follow-up tests or additional health-care services.

The findings (subscription required) were published online today in the Genetics in Medicine. The study was completed as part of the Multiplex Initiative and involved 217 healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 40 who volunteered to participate in genetic susceptibility testing offered by their health plan. The testing panel consisted of 15 genetic markers that play roles in common diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, lung cancer and coronary heart disease.

Researchers examined the health-care services used by the participants in the 12 months before and after the genetic testing. Study participants' behavior was also compared to a group of nearly 400 members of similar insurance plans who elected not to complete genetic testing. According to a National Institutes of Health release:

The study is the first to use electronic health records — rather than self-reported behavior — to measure the impact of genetic testing on the subsequent consumption of health services by commercially insured, healthy adults. Self reports, which can be affected by memory lapses and other problems, tend to be less accurate.


The researchers counted the number of physician visits and laboratory tests or procedures the people received, particularly those services associated with four of the eight conditions tested by the multiplex panel. Most of the procedures or screening tests that were counted are not among those currently recommended for people in this age group who don't have symptoms. The researchers found that participants in genetic testing did not change their overall use of health care services compared with those not tested.

Previously: How genome testing can help guide preventative medicine, What personal DNA testing can reveal about your potential health and future well-being and Could patients’ knowledge of their DNA lead to better outcomes?
Photo by National Institutes of Health

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