University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Telehealth in Genetics: The Genetic Counselor Perspective on the Utility of Telehealth in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Wisconsin

Sarah H. Choi, MGCS; Marwat N. Salamin, BS; Catherine A. Reiser, MS; Lauren E. Rachow, BS; Michael R. Lasarev, MS; M. Stephen Meyn, MD, PhD; Elizabeth M. Petty, MD

WMJ. 2022;121(1):41-47

Download full text pdf. Download Appendix.


Background: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many genetics clinics across the country were prompted to integrate telephone visits and videoconferencing into their practice to promote the safety of patients and clinic staff members. Our study examined providers’ perspectives on the utility and effectiveness of these telehealth-based clinic visits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin.

Methods: An anonymous Qualtrics survey was distributed via email in October 2020 to all members of the Wisconsin Genetic Systems Integration Hub and the Wisconsin Genetic Counselor Association. Current clinical genetic providers were eligible to participate in the survey. The survey assessed providers’ experiences and perceptions toward utilizing telehealth in delivering clinical genetic services to their patients during the pandemic.

Results: Forty-seven currently practicing clinical genetic counselors in Wisconsin either partially or fully completed the survey. Nearly all respondents somewhat (23%) or strongly (75%) wanted to incorporate telehealth in the future, primarily because of perceived improvements in clinic functioning. Patients with suboptimal telecommunications capacities were considered the most challenging aspect of telehealth, and better technology support was the most frequently cited strategy for addressing current telehealth limitations.

Conclusion: Clinical genetic counselors in Wisconsin generally reported positive experiences integrating telehealth into their patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many counselors see telehealth as a way to increase access to genetic services and, with better technology support from their intuitions, would support utilizing telehealth in their clinical practice.

Author Affiliations: University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin (Salamin, Petty, Reiser, Rachow); Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics, UW-Madison, Madison, Wis (Lasarev); Center for Human Genomics and Precision Medicine, UW-Madison, Madison, Wis (Meyn).
Corresponding Author: Sarah H. Choi, MGCS, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 1500 Highland Ave, Rm 333, Madison, WI 53705; phone 608.262.9722; email
Acknowledgements: The authors acknowledge the Wisconsin Genetic Systems Integration Hub and the Wisconsin Genetic Counselor Association for their assistance distributing the study survey to their members and would like to thank Sara Zoran, MS, CGC, for providing valuable comments on the survey instrument, and Jessica Scott Schwoerer, MD, for offering insightful feedback on the manuscript.
Funding/Support: Coauthor Marwat N. Salamin was supported by a summer research award from the Herman and Gwendolyn Shapiro Foundation.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
Share WMJ