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Demographic Differences Among US Department of Veterans Affairs Patients Referred for Genetic Consultation to a Centralized VA Telehealth Program, VA Medical Centers, or the Community.

Scheuner MT, Huynh AK, Chanfreau-Coffinier C, Lerner B, Gable AR, Lee M, Simon A, Coeshott R, Hamilton AB, Patterson OV, DuVall S, Russell MM. Demographic Differences Among US Department of Veterans Affairs Patients Referred for Genetic Consultation to a Centralized VA Telehealth Program, VA Medical Centers, or the Community. JAMA Network Open. 2022 Apr 1; 5(4):e226687.

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IMPORTANCE: Telehealth enables access to genetics clinicians, but impact on care coordination is unknown. OBJECTIVE: To assess care coordination and equity of genetic care delivered by centralized telehealth and traditional genetic care models. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: This cross-sectional study included patients referred for genetic consultation from 2010 to 2017 with 2 years of follow-up in the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. Patients were excluded if they were referred for research, cytogenetic, or infectious disease testing, or if their care model could not be determined. EXPOSURES: Genetic care models, which included VA-telehealth (ie, a centralized team of genetic counselors serving VA facilities nationwide), VA-traditional (ie, a regional service by clinical geneticists and genetic counselors), and non-VA care (ie, community care purchased by the VA). MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Multivariate regression models were used to assess associations between patient and consultation characteristics and the type of genetic care model referral; consultation completion; and having 0, 1, or 2 or more cancer surveillance (eg, colonoscopy) and risk-reducing procedures (eg, bilateral mastectomy) within 2 years following referral. RESULTS: In this study, 24?778 patients with genetics referrals were identified, including 12?671 women (51.1%), 13?193 patients aged 50 years or older (53.2%), 15?639 White patients (63.1%), and 15?438 patients with cancer-related referrals (62.3%). The VA-telehealth model received 14?580 of the 24?778 consultations (58.8%). Asian patients, American Indian or Alaskan Native patients, and Hawaiian or Pacific Islander patients were less likely to be referred to VA-telehealth than White patients (OR, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.35-0.84) compared with the VA-traditional model. Completing consultations was less likely with non-VA care than the VA-traditional model (OR, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.35-0.57); there were no differences in completing consultations between the VA models. Black patients were less likely to complete consultations than White patients (OR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.76-0.93), but only if referred to the VA-telehealth model. Patients were more likely to have multiple cancer preventive procedures if they completed their consultations (OR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.40-1.72) but only if their consultations were completed with the VA-traditional model. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this cross-sectional study, the VA-telehealth model was associated with improved access to genetics clinicians but also with exacerbated health care disparities and hindered care coordination. Addressing structural barriers and the needs and preferences of vulnerable subpopulations may complement the centralized telehealth approach, improve care coordination, and help mitigate health care disparities.

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