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Open Access Research article

Technology assessment and resource allocation for predictive genetic testing: A study of the perspectives of Canadian genetic health care providers

Alethea Adair1, Robyn Hyde-Lay1*, Edna Einsiedel2 and Timothy Caulfield1

Author affiliations

1 Health Law Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

2 Faculty of Communications and Culture, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Ethics 2009, 10:6  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-10-6

Published: 18 June 2009

Abstract

Background

With a growing number of genetic tests becoming available to the health and consumer markets, genetic health care providers in Canada are faced with the challenge of developing robust decision rules or guidelines to allocate a finite number of public resources. The objective of this study was to gain Canadian genetic health providers' perspectives on factors and criteria that influence and shape resource allocation decisions for publically funded predictive genetic testing in Canada.

Methods

The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with 16 senior lab directors and clinicians at publically funded Canadian predictive genetic testing facilities. Participants were drawn from British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Given the community sampled was identified as being relatively small and challenging to access, purposive sampling coupled with snowball sampling methodologies were utilized.

Results

Surveyed lab directors and clinicians indicated that predictive genetic tests were funded provincially by one of two predominant funding models, but they themselves played a significant role in how these funds were allocated for specific tests and services. They also rated and identified several factors that influenced allocation decisions and patients' decisions regarding testing. Lastly, participants provided recommendations regarding changes to existing allocation models and showed support for a national evaluation process for predictive testing.

Conclusion

Our findings suggest that largely local and relatively ad hoc decision making processes are being made in relation to resource allocations for predictive genetic tests and that a more coordinated and, potentially, national approach to allocation decisions in this context may be appropriate.