Ontario Maternal Serum Screening Program: practices, knowledge and opinions of health care providers.
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OBJECTIVE: To determine the practices, knowledge and opinions of health care providers regarding a prenatal genetic screening program in Ontario. DESIGN: Cross-sectional self-reported survey. SETTING: Ontario. PARTICIPANTS: Random sample of 2000 family physicians, all 565 obstetricians and all 62 registered midwives in the province. Among subjects who were eligible (those providing antenatal care or attending births) the response rates were 91% (778/851), 76% (273/359) and 78% (46/59) respectively. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Which patients were offered maternal serum screening (MSS), how results were being communicated, knowledge of the test's sensitivity, likes and dislikes about MSS and recommendations regarding the program. RESULTS: Most (97%) of respondents stated that they were offering MSS to the pregnant women in their practices; 88% were offering it routinely to all pregnant women (87% of the family physicians, 90% of the obstetricians and 100% of the midwives). Most (92%) of the respondents stated that they communicate positive results to their patients personally as soon as they are received; 23% did so for negative results. The respondents correctly identified the initial positive rate but underestimated the false-positive rate. About one-third did not respond to these knowledge questions. Of those who gave feedback on the screening program, 50% recommended that it not be changed, 29% suggested that it be changed, and 22% recommended that it be scrapped. CONCLUSIONS: Participation in the Ontario Maternal Serum Screening Program by health care providers has been good, although knowledge about MSS is far from ideal. Many providers have reservations about the program. In light of concerns raised about the high false-positive rate and the anxiety such results generate in pregnant women, there is a need for more education of providers and patients and a better understanding of women's experiences with genetic screening.
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