Image_3_Disparity in Access to Oncology Precision Care: A Geospatial Analysis of Driving Distances to Genetic Counselors in the U.S..tif
In the US, the growing demand for precision medicine, particularly in oncology, continues to put pressure on the availability of genetic counselors to meet that demand. This is especially true in certain geographic locations due to the uneven distribution of genetic counselors throughout the US. To assess these disparities, access to genetic counselors of all specialties is explored by geography, cancer type, and social determinants of health. Geospatial technology was used to combine and analyze genetic counselor locations and cancer incidence at the county level across the US, with a particular focus on tumors associated with BRCA mutations including ovarian, pancreatic, prostate and breast. Access distributions were quantified, and associations with region, cancer type, and socioeconomic variables were investigated using correlational tests. Nationally, in 2020, there were 4,813 genetic counselors, or 1.49 genetic counselors per 100,000 people, varying between 0.17 to 5.7 per 100,000 at the state level. Seventy-one percent of U.S. residents live within a 30-minute drive-time to a genetic counselor. Drive-times, however, are not equally distributed across the country – while 82% of people in metropolitan areas are 30 minutes from a genetic counselor, only 6% of people in nonmetro areas live within 30 minutes’ drive time. There are statistically significant differences in access across geographical regions, socioeconomics and cancer types. Access to genetic counselors for cancer patients differs across groups, including regional, socioeconomic, and cancer type. These findings highlight areas of the country that may benefit from increased genetic counseling provider supply, by increasing the number of genetic counselors in a region or by expanding the use of telegenetics a term used to describe virtual genetic counseling consults that occur via videoconference. Policy intervention to allow genetic counselors to bill for their services may be an effective route for increasing availability of genetic counselors’ services However, genetic counselors in direct patient care settings also face other challenges such as salary, job satisfaction, job recognition, overwork/burnout, and appropriate administrative/clinical support, and addressing these issues should also be considered along with policy support. These results could support targeted policy reform and alternative service models to increase access to identified pockets of unmet need, such as telemedicine. Data and analysis are available to the public through an interactive dashboard1.