Genomic medicine might be transforming healthcare, but do physicians feel prepared and confident to practise it?

That’s the question explored in a national survey of more than 400 medical specialists in an Australian Genomics study, the findings of which are published in the online British Medical Journal, BMJ Open.

The national snapshot finds that while two-thirds of physicians think genomics will soon impact on their practice, only one third recently completed education in genomics and only a quarter feel prepared to practise it. They want more education, particularly on genomic technologies and clinical utility.

The survey included participants from 30 non-genetic medical specialities. About 70 per cent were from public hospitals and a quarter practise outside metropolitan areas. In the past year, half had contacted their local genetics services and just over half had ordered or referred a patient for a gene panel or exome/genome sequencing.

The study, Measuring physician practice, preparedness and preferences for genomic medicine: a national survey, was conducted by Dr Amy Nisselle, with leadership from Professors Clara Gaff and Sylvia Metcalfe.

The findings highlight a gap between specialists’ expectations about the future impact of genomics on their practice – most believe it will change the way they manage patients – and perceptions of their level of readiness to implement it. The majority prefer a model of practising genomic medicine with some level of support from genetics services.

Education and training are seen as one part of the solution. While continuing education has been provided locally through a number of initiatives at an introductory level, the study shows more is clearly needed.

“The specialists who completed the survey clearly want more genomics education,” said Dr Nisselle.

“Nearly all selected at least five topics, with the most popular related to pre-test aspects such as identifying appropriate patients to refer and knowing how to refer to genetics services.”