Whether you want more control, to take charge of your health or to have a better idea of what your future holds, having genetics integrated into your primary care moves care above and beyond the standard. By exploring the genetic changes making you unique and incorporating this into your medical record, your doctors can better guide you into making more precise health care decisions.
“Considering genetics through evaluation of a patient’s personal and family history can help primary care providers understand a patient’s risk of developing certain conditions,” said Cassie Hajek, M.D., an internal medicine physician and medical geneticist at Sanford Imagenetics.
“If a patient has a family history of a certain condition, we know that patient has a greater risk of developing the condition. A doctor can determine if the patient should see a genetics specialist for further evaluation or if genetic testing is appropriate,” Dr. Hajek said.
A genetic evaluation
From evaluating family history to ordering a genetic test to explaining the results, a genetic evaluation with a genetic counselor or medical geneticist can determine if and how genetics is contributing to your disease risk. If genetic testing is available for the specific concern, the test result becomes available in your medical record to guide care. Your doctor can direct future care based on the findings, including recommendation for additional monitoring, preventive interventions and other lifestyle changes, if necessary.
“It is important to remember a patient can be at an increased risk of developing a condition without having an identifiable gene change. Often, someone has a family history, but a specific genetic component is not found. Family history is the greatest predictor of disease risk and will be considered when developing a surveillance plan,” Dr. Hajek said. “The doctor knows the patient is at an elevated risk and is able to recommend appropriate lifestyle measures and screenings to reduce risk as much as possible.”
While many patients may not discover an increased risk for disease due to an identifiable genetic cause, genetics is also applied to medication prescription. Through pharmacogenetics, doctors can look at how your genetics influence your body’s response to and ability to metabolize a specific medication.
Integrated in your medical record
Dr. Hajek said that while all genetic results are embedded in a patient’s electronic medical record (EMR), how they are embedded is key.
With family history, personal history and genetic testing results, your doctor uses the information in your EMR to develop a personalized care plan based on your risks. This means together, you and your doctor develop a strategy for closer monitoring, earlier screenings, preventive interventions and lifestyle changes. Whereas, pharmacogenetics is utilized in such a way that there is automated decision support for your doctor at the time you need a medication.
“If a patient is prescribed a medication influenced by his or her genetics, a warning fires at the time of prescription. That is a huge advantage because it makes the information usable the moment it is needed. The doctor can immediately prescribe a different medication or adjust dosage based on your needs,” Dr. Hajek said.
With genetics, care moves away from the broad recommendation toward a more personalized plan of care. As your risks change, care can be adjusted by your doctors to meet your needs, offering you more clarity and control over your health and wellness.
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