Giving every patient a complete DNA workup would make singling out genetic diseases much simpler. You could tell each person what to look out for, what to test for, and give specific lifestyle advice. The problem is that genetic testing is too expensive for most people to do it without a particular reason. When there is already evidence of a genetic illness, it makes sense. Without that evidence, the price is prohibitive.
Home DNA testing kits have given people an alternative. They are relatively affordable and have become incredibly popular. Millions of people have done these tests without any specific health reasons.
As a healthcare provider, should you encourage patients to use the best DNA testing kits?
One of your concerns is probably regarding the accuracy of these tests. While DNA testing companies insist on the accuracy of their products, it is possible that the layman just isn’t qualified to interpret the results. This can lead to complacency when caution is advised, and panic when there is no reason for concern.
For this reason, when you do encourage a patient to try a home DNA testing kit, you will need to consider the likelihood they will come to you with questions. If you are willing to provide them the service of helping them make sense of the results, you’ll be making the process more enticing and helpful.
Something that makes DNA testing kits an attractive option for your patients is their popularity and pop culture relevance. Everyone seems to be doing DNA testing and sharing their results with the world. YouTubers and “influencers” have been some of the best marketers for DNA testing companies by providing sponsored commentary on their own processes. Buzzfeed, for example, has had a series of employees do DNA tests, discussing their results on videos with experts.
This gives a lot of people the incentive to do DNA testing, even if they have no evidence of potential genetic conditions. Make sure to be specific about which DNA testing kits they should use. For example, recommend that Asian patients use the best DNA testing kits for Asian ancestry rather than the best option for African Americans or caucasians. This will give them the opportunity to find more accurate results, as well as interesting information about their heritage.
Ultimately, the best reason for patients to do genetic testing is to prevent problems in the future. If they are susceptible to curable diseases, finding early evidence of it can be crucial. And if the potential disease is terminal or degenerative, beginning treatment from the start might well slow its progress and dilute its effects.
Prevention is far better than any cure, especially in a society in which medical treatment is so expensive. For many Americans, major illnesses can be financially disastrous. They are forced to choose between good care and financial solvency, finding themselves in a terrible situation even once they have recovered.
Ideally, we’d be able to diagnose all illnesses right at the start. As is, discovering any predispositions towards genetic conditions can be critical.
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