By Trisha McBride Ferguson
While finding the causes to hereditary health conditions was once a mystery, today genetic evaluations can help patients understand how their genes affect their health and that of their family.
Mission Health’s Fullerton Genetics Center now provides telehealth consultations at Angel Medical Center, making it easier than ever for patients in the Franklin region to access these services.
Should You Consider a Genetic Evaluation?
Genetic services are provided by a team consisting of a geneticist and genetic counselor for patients with a known or suspected genetic disorder, birth defect, intellectual disability or increased risk for similar problems. If you have a parent or grandparent with a serious health condition, genetic counseling may help you determine your risk for the disease.
Similarly, if you or your partner are planning to become pregnant, genetic counseling can help you understand how your unique hereditary traits may impact your child’s health. You may also benefit from an evaluation with a pharmacist trained in how your genes affect your ability to metabolize your medications.
“We see patients of all ages, and they are usually referred to us by their primary provider or other specialist involved in their care,” said Chad Haldeman-Englert, MD, a clinical geneticist with Fullerton Genetics Center.
What Occurs during a Genetic Evaluation?
The process begins with asking the patient about their medical and family history, explained Haldeman-Englert. Their medication history will also be reviewed if they are meeting with the pharmacist. Patients then undergo a physical exam when necessary.
“We may likely recommend genetic testing based on the information obtained from the patient’s history and physical exam findings,” said Haldeman-Englert. If genetic testing is ordered, a sample — of blood, saliva or a swab of the inside of the cheek — is collected. Results from the tests are interpreted by the geneticist, genetic counselor or pharmacist and then shared with the patient.
The Fullerton Genetics Center is the region’s only comprehensive genetics and personalized medicine program. Its staff includes two clinical geneticists, six genetic counselors and a licensed clinical pharmacist trained in pharmacogenomics.
What Happens during a Virtual Session?
Patients in the Franklin region now have access to these genetic services via telehealth consultations at Angel Medical Center. Typical telehealth visits take place in a private exam area equipped with video cameras, monitors and specialized equipment connected to the Fullerton Genetics Center. “We even have peripheral devices that help us perform a virtual exam,” said Haldeman-Englert.
Based on the interview and exam, the geneticist and genetic counselor will determine if genetic testing is indicated. A nurse is on-site to facilitate the visit, and blood or other sample can be obtained when necessary.
“We have had several genetic counseling visits by telehealth,” said Haldeman-Englert. “This type of evaluation is more of a discussion, so it really lends itself to a virtual appointment.”
Chad Haldeman-Englert, MD, is a clinical geneticist with Fullerton Genetics Center.
Genetic evaluation, counseling and testing are now available at Angel Medical Center. For more information, call 828-213-0022.