As demand for genetic tests increases, so does the call for clinical laboratories to process and analyze the data, and work with ordering physicians to explain test results to patients
According to a 23andMe press release announcing the results of two national surveys, “most people and doctors agree that genetic testing offers promise for more personalized healthcare.” This is positive for clinical laboratories that provide genetic testing. These two surveys indicate a growing understanding among physicians and healthcare consumers of genetic testing’s value to effective precision medicine.
The surveys were conducted by Medscape, an online resource of medical information owned by WebMD, and Material, an international firm that partners with companies to provide strategy, insights, design, and technology, according to its website. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing company 23andMe commissioned the surveys.
The researchers found that 75% of patients in the US said, “they’d be more likely to follow a doctor’s advice if they knew their genetic profile was used to personalize their care.”
The survey also revealed that:
- 92% of doctors in the US say genetics is an important part of a patient’s complete health picture.
- 66% of doctors say genetic testing could help lead to better outcomes for patients.
“I am excited about a future where genetic information becomes the foundation of personalized health,” said Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe co-founder and CEO, in a press release. “And that future may help alleviate some issues already affecting the population.” Recent surveys commissioned by 23andMe that indicate both physicians and patients are becoming more accepting of genetic tests are good news for clinical laboratories that perform genetic testing. (Photo copyright: TechCrunch/Wikimedia Commons.)
Filling a Need for Personalized Healthcare
Elective genetic testing is not only becoming more popular with doctors and patients, it may also fill a key precision medicine need in the population. According to the researchers, “more than half of people surveyed (55%) said they don’t feel healthy today, and 63% said they don’t feel in control of their health. And while most people surveyed (62%) said they wanted advice from their doctors that was tailored to them personally, few, only about 36%, said that’s what they were getting,” the press release noted.
Clearly, demand for a pathway to more personalized healthcare exists in the market. Thus, companies that offer elective genetic testing are looking to fill that need.
Genetic testing kits from companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry have become increasingly popular over the past few years. People often turn to these DTC companies to learn about their heritage, but they also allow healthcare consumers to take part in elective genetic testing without needing a referral from a doctor.
Before the popularity of these DTC tests, most genetic testing only took place when ordered by a healthcare provider. But that may be changing. According to a study conducted by Global Markets Insights (GMI), the size of the DTC genetic testing market “surpassed USD $3 billion in 2022 and is predicted to expand at over 11.5% CAGR [compound annual growth rate] from 2023-2032.”
GMI also predicted that “rising prevalence of genetic disorders will accelerate [genetic testing] industry growth.”
Problems and Opportunities in Genetic Testing
As consumer demand for elective genetic testing has increased, certain issues and opportunities have arisen as well.
In an article she penned for STAT titled, “Why the Rise of DNA Testing Is Creating Challenges—and An Opportunity,” physician/scientist Noura Abul-Husn MD, PhD, Vice President of Genomic Health at 23andMe, wrote, “This rapid growth has created what some might see as a big problem and others might see as an opportunity.” Abul-Husn is also Associate Professor of Medicine and Genetics, and Clinical Director of the Institute for Genomic Health, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“The problem? There hasn’t been a corresponding increase in genetics education and training healthcare providers about it, meaning that many people are reaching out to healthcare providers who are ill-prepared to incorporate genetic test results into clinical practice,” she wrote.
“The opportunity? Results from genetic testing can help healthcare providers engage with their patients on a deeper level about personal health risks, promoting health, and preventing disease,” she added.
Growing Need for Processing and Analyzing Genomic Tests
A YouGov survey of 1,000 adults between February 9 and February 12, 2022, showed that two of every 10 Americans have taken a DTC genetic test. But it seems healthcare professionals currently lack the training to incorporate genetic test results into their patients’ care. This may present an opportunity for the genetic testing industry to meet the demand of its consumers.
The growing popularity of elective genetic testing will also increase demand for clinical laboratories to process and analyze these types of tests. And that will drive increased revenue and job opportunities in those labs.
Another factor that is positive about the increased acceptance and interest in genetic testing by doctors and consumers is that this creates a demand by employees for their company health plan to cover genetic tests. Each year, going forward, employers will recognize that their employees want genetic tests and so will take steps to make such tests a covered benefit within the health plan. That is also a positive market factor for those medical laboratories offering genetic testing.
It seems clear that elective genetic testing offers individuals the opportunity to work with their physicians to design personalized treatments based on their unique conditions. And it gives the healthcare industry—including clinical laboratories—the opportunity to expand services and branch out. The future of precision medicine may lie within our genes.