Delivery of molecular genetic services within a health care system: time analysis of the clinical workload. The Molecular Genetic Study Group.
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The most recent discoveries in molecular genetics today are rapidly incorporated into clinical practice and have resulted in an unprecedented expansion of medical options. Despite this, the impact of molecular genetics on health care services has yet to be evaluated. In order to begin this assessment, clinical genetic workload was prospectively collected from cases where molecular genetic testing was considered. Participation involved all 16 urban and outreach genetic centers regionalized to service the entire population of 10 million within the Canadian province of Ontario. Molecular genetic testing has been clinically available for > 5 years, as part of a publicly supported genetic network in which there are no direct costs to residents. Cross-sectional data were collected on 1,101 clients from 544 families involving 1,742 clinical actions relating to diseases in which molecular (DNA) tests were considered. Median times per clinical genetic action were as follows: formal counseling (60 min), case review (15 min), phone call (10 min), letter (15 min), specimen arrangement (15 min), and interpretation of molecular test results (10 min). Times varied significantly with the inheritance pattern of the disease, topics involved, and location. For any given genetic case, multiple clinical actions resulted in substantial time spent by the genetic professional. Clerical and administrative times were not captured. Workload unit measurements similar to those currently employed in hospital laboratories may be helpful for predicting the clinical resources and personnel that will be required as the use of molecular genetics by other medical specialties increases.
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