Consumers armed with genetic testing information from the likes of 23andMe and a whole host of gene testing companies are showing up at the emergency room or their primary care physicians’ offices looking for answers.
The problem is that those physicians don’t know enough about the emerging field of personalized medicine, said Dr. Jennifer Lowry, a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri. Lowry, who works at the hospital’s Center for Personalized Medicine and Therapeutic Innovation, was speaking at MedCity CONVERGE Tuesday in Philadelphia.
“Personalized medicine may be routine at Mayo Clinic … but when parents show up with their child’s genetic test results in the doctor’s office, many physicians are asking what this all means,” Lowry said. “They are like ‘Whaaaat?’”
Later in an interview, Lowry said that personalized medicine was not even taught when she was in medical school and she had to learn it by herself.
She and others on the panel — which included James Burn, president and CEO of genetic testing firm AssureRx, and Mike Scott, patient advocate, chairman of National Organization for Rare Disorders — agreed that physician education was essential.
Burns said that AssureRx is exploring ways to educate patients simultaneously with those in the medical profession.
However, Lowry later said that she does not believe that companies developing the tests should be the entities managing this communication.Lowry said that the education will have to come from physicians who are unconnected to organizations that do the testing. She added that the Center for Personalized Medicine and Therapeutic Innovation holds conferences to educate the primary care physician or the ER physician, but many times people who show up are mainly researchers.
There is a good reason for why Lowry doesn’t want the education to come from the companies doing the testing. She doesn’t think these tests are that accurate.
“Mayo is the best that we have, but I sometimes override even their interpretation of the test results,” Lowry declared.
That’s because these genetic tests are still very limited. Sometimes deliberately because it may not be cost effective in terms of reimbursement to broaden the tests, said John Lilly, president of Minneapolis consulting firm Strategic Insights LLC, who attended the personalized medicine panel at CONVERGE.