Accuracy and ambiguity in counseling patients about genetic risk
Patient Education as Topic
Identification of the inheritable nature of a multitude of diseases has introduced opportunities to counsel patients concerning risks. Tools that help patients understand these risks, such as visual representations (Figure), may help physicians counsel patients. The goal is that patients have a more accurate understanding of the testing process. If patients have a better understanding of the importance of positive and negative test results and their potential for ambiguity, this should result in fewer unnecessary tests and less risk of harming patients. Also, many patients have justifiable fears of discrimination in employment and health insurance. Discrimination based on genetic testing may require legislative action and is a serious concern for patients contemplating these tests. Genetic research provides society with improved opportunities for prevention and treatment of disease. Research is also needed to explain how to represent this probabilistic and ambiguous information to patients to improve informed decision making.