Improving the referral process for familial breast cancer genetic counselling: findings of three randomised controlled trials of two interventions.
Wilson BJ., Torrance N., Mollison J., Wordsworth S., Gray JR., Haites NE., Grant A., Campbell MK., Miedyzbrodzka Z., Clarke A., Watson MS., Douglas A.
To evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of two complementary interventions, using familial breast cancer as a model condition. The primary care intervention consisted of providing computerised referral guidelines and related education to GPs. The nurse counsellor intervention evaluated genetic nurses as substitutes for specialist geneticists in the initial assessment and management of 2, respectively. Taking the trials together, the costs were sensitive to the grades of doctors and the time spent in consultant supervision of the nurse counsellor, but they were only slightly affected by the grade of nurse counsellor, the selected discount rate and the lifespan of equipment. Computer-based systems in the primary care intervention cannot be recommended for widespread use without further evaluation and testing in real practice settings. Genetic nurse counsellors may be a cost-effective alternative to assessment by doctors. This trial does not provide definitive evidence that the general policy of employing genetics nurse counsellors is sound, as it was based on only three individuals. Future evaluations of computer-based decision support systems for primary care must first address their efficacy under ideal conditions, identify barriers to the use of such systems in practice, and provide evidence of the impact of the policy of such systems in routine practice. The nurse counsellor trial should be replicated in other settings to provide reassurance of the generalisability of the intervention and other models of nurse-based assessment, such as in outreach clinics, should be developed and evaluated. The design of future evaluations of professional substitution should also address issues such as the effect of different levels of training and experience of nurse counsellors, and learning effects.