With genomics set to impact almost every medical specialty, it’s important to find effective ways to get doctors up to speed.
A study in the Journal of Translational Genetics and Genomics outlines the basics of two successful genomics education programs. It tracks the real-world impact of Melbourne Genomics education from 2018-2019, measuring knowledge, skills, confidence and changes in practice up to two years later.
The first program comprised 11 workshops tailored to different medical specialities, and the second was a blended course combining self-directed online learning with face-to-face workshops. More than 400 health professionals participated, representing adult and paediatric specialties, including cancer care.
Here are the key takeaways.
1. Aim to build confidence as well as knowledge and skills.
The education programs were based on a solid foundation of adult learning theory, education design and implementation science. They aimed to not only build knowledge of genomics, but the confidence to use it in healthcare practice.
Surveys before, during and after the education programs showed that doctors’ knowledge, skills and confidence in key areas of genomics all increased steeply, and dropped only slightly over time.
Of those who responded, most reported a change in clinical practice close to two years after education. This ranged from referring patients to genetics services for the first time, to requesting or interpreting genomic tests. More than a third had educated colleagues about genomics, showing that Melbourne Genomics education had a broader impact on participants’ workplaces.
2. Co-design education with medical specialists.
Both programs were co-designed and facilitated with doctors who participated in Melbourne Genomics clinical projects and used genomics in patient care. These doctors were able to identify key concepts and patient case studies that would make education relevant to their specialties.
3. Focus on what doctors really need to know.
Most doctors don't need the technical details behind a genomic test. The co-design process helped identify what they would need to be able to do:
- Identify patients who need a genomic test
- Understand what types of genomic tests are available
- Select the right type of test for their patient
- Order a test or refer complex cases
- Interpret a test report and use it in patient care
4. Combine foundational online learning with case-based discussions.
Education doesn’t need to be entirely discipline-specific. Doctors preferred self-directed online learning over workshops for general topics such as pre-test consent and counselling, requesting a test or referring patients. They also said that case-based discussion with peers was important to help them interpret test results, arrange post-test counselling, and use test results in patient care.
Both programs significantly increased confidence and understanding of genomic testing processes. Blended learning participants showed additional gains in confidence after attending a workshop following online learning.
These results suggest doctors from multiple specialties can benefit from the same introductory topics, as long as this foundational learning is complemented by case studies relevant to each specialty.
Drs Fran Maher and Amy Nisselle are lead authors of the study. “Genomic medicine needs to be part of continuing medical education for a growing number of specialties,” said Dr Maher.
“We wanted to see whether we could design a program where all doctors had the same foundational learning, and whether separate workshops are needed for each specialty, to gain confidence to use genomic testing in their practice.
“This paper presents useful insights on how to make genomics education relevant, practical and scalable.”
Read the full paper in the Journal of Translational Genetics and Genomics.
Need genomics education? Here are our courses.