Our understanding of health is always evolving. Technology evolves to combat disease, public approaches evolve to offer more widespread community care, and practitioner knowledge evolves so as to better help their patients. We see this with the COVID-19 pandemic, as our understanding and approaches have evolved on a mass scale. But practitioners face this challenge with their patients every day: What new tools and technology can I use to help my patient make incremental changes that will contribute to a healthier life?
One of those tools that every practitioner should be utilizing is genetic testing.
Genetic code is the great blueprint of a person’s physical make-up, but a blueprint is useless unless someone knows how to read its every detail.
Today, there are practitioners who are able to decipher those blueprints for their patients, and give them insights into, for example, the construction of the walls, the insulation, the electrical systems, and the foundation. But there are still other practitioners who can only discern that there’s the outline of a house, and have no more insights to give.
A new report on the State of Genetic Testing & Nutrition reveals this split in actionable insights across a selection of health practitioners that included doctors focused on lifestyle, functional, or integrative medicine, and licensed nutritionists or dietitians. The report looks at the ways in which practitioners use genetic testing. It shows that while there are many who utilize genetic tests, know how to interpret the results, and see the value it can bring to their patients, there are just as many practitioners who aren’t really utilizing it in ways to help their patients. Not only can genetic testing provide value for patients today, it’s going to be one of the most valuable tools a practitioner can have going forward.
The State of Genetic Testing
Today, genetic testing has become significantly accessible to everyday people who want to take one, and millions of people already have. This is due in part to big players like Ancestry and 23andMe offering at-home kits for low costs, opening up the market, and making “genetic testing” a household term.
But not all genetic companies are high quality with good intentions.
Many offer genetic insights into health and wellness as a way to sell their supplements, and many don’t have solid science behind them, or use copycat databases. Additionally, the consumer market still equates “genetic test” with “ancestry data,” and has yet to understand the vast benefits and insights genetic results can bring to their everyday lives.
This gives practitioners the opportunity to step in and educate their patients about the benefits of genetic testing, and the insights it can offer them beyond just knowing where their family came from. Genetic testing helps improve a practitioner’s ability to personalize their patients treatment, as it gives them unique insights based on a person’s genetic make-up. It also has the ability to estimate susceptibility to disease , and can be used to create preventative action plans.
Genetic testing can also improve a practitioner’s clinical assessments as well, as it works together with other tests to provide a complete picture of a patient’s health.
It can also inform functional testing, serve as a screening tool, and help practitioners better target medication and supplements.
Genetic testing also empowers patients to take more initiative over their own health and wellness.
But while practitioners in the report identified these different benefits, only 33% of practitioners were actively using genetic testing in their practice. Additionally, only half were confident that they could offer actionable insights to their patients — in other words, only half were confident that they could explain every detail of the blueprint and its impact to their patients.
This means that there is a significant portion of practitioners who are under-utilizing genetic testing insights to help their patients, or not utilizing them at all.
This is going to be to their detriment as these practitioners will lose out on patients looking for more personalized and actionable help. Additionally, 31% of practitioners have also seen an increase in patients asking about genetic testing, which means it’s not if a practitioner will adopt genetic testing, but when.
Integrating Genetic Testing in Your Practice
There are a few things practitioners can do to escalate the adoption of genetic testing into their practice.
Even practitioners who already use genetic testing continue to learn more about the benefits and insights it can provide, so the first step is education. Learning more about how it works can help clear up misconceptions, and help practitioners understand how genetic testing can not only help their patients but their practice as well.
Practitioners should also learn more about the labs that conduct the testing, the science they use, and how they handle DNA and the data they extract.
Getting a transparent look into the process can help increase trust and confidence for those who are still new or have lingering doubts.
Practitioners can ramp up their knowledge of interpreting the data and creating actionable insights by learning from other practitioners who have been working with genetic testing already. Practitioners can also use this kind of mentoring to increase their knowledge, hear stories about how genetic testing has been used to improve patient lives, ask questions, and more. In fact, the report states that practitioners are indeed seeking more education and training to help them integrate it into their practice.
Looking to the Future
Genetic testing isn’t just a fad. In fact, 39% of practitioners want to increase their usage of genetic testing in the future. If genetic testing can bring such specific insights, it’s going to change patient care for the better — as long as there are practitioners out there willing to read the blueprints.