Penn Telegenetics Program
Angela Bradbury, MD
Innovation Accelerator Program
National Institutes of Health
National Cancer Institue
Basser Center for BRCA
Genetic testing for cancer susceptibility is essential to oncologic care and cancer prevention.
Meeting with a genetic counselor helps patients determine if their personal or family history meets genetic testing criteria and empowers them to make informed health care decisions. However, only a fraction of patients complete such meetings due to barriers to access, like long travel distances and a shortage of genetics professionals.
As genomic applications in oncology expand, the demand for genetic testing and counseling services will continue to increase.
Based on NIH-funded research led by Angela Bradbury demonstrating that providers could leverage telemedicine to expand genetic testing and counseling services to populations with limited or no access to care, the Penn Telegenetics Program was founded in 2012. It enables traditional genetic testing and counseling services to be conducted by telephone or video conferencing in real time.
In 2014, as research funding was nearing an end, we worked with Bradbury’s team to develop a sustainable business model for the program. We implemented contracts to transition remote health centers – which were part of the research program – into business-to-business clients, enabling sites to continue uninterrupted telegenetic services for their patients. We also helped the team implement new technology to increase capacity and decrease the paperwork burden on care teams and patients.
The Penn Telegenetics Program improves access to genetic services, increases risk reduction interventions, and decreases cancer mortality.
Through multiple clinical and research contracts, the program has grown to offer remote genetic testing and counseling services to patients nationwide in community settings where genetic services are not available and for large clinical trials. Four certified genetic counselors licensed in all U.S. states complete up to 140 counseling sessions per month, with volumes increasing annually.
Amid COVID-19, Bradbury’s team consulted with other health systems that needed to rapidly implement telemedicine services for patients who required genetic testing and counseling services.