NEBGH issues guide to genomic medicine for HR, benefits managers
- The Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) has announced the launch of a free guide to help employers better understand and make decisions about genomic medicine and genetic testing. The guide explains basic concepts, including the ways in which genomic medicine is being used for diagnostics and treatment.
- Citing the National Human Genome Resource Institute, the report defines genomic medicine as an emerging discipline that uses a person's genome — their complete set of DNA — to make diagnostic or therapeutic decisions.
- Genomic medicine is most commonly applied to oncology, cardiology, pharmacology, infectious disease, mental health, maternal health, and rare and undiagnosed diseases. While treatments based on genomic research are "years away," NEBGH said, the marketplace for diagnostic testing and screening is making progress.
Genomic medicine is an emerging field, but it's not without concerns, especially about genetic information privacy. Most employees in a 2017 study said they would be interested in genetic-testing benefits but specified that they would need to be affordable and easy to perform, and their results kept confidential. Businesses may need to be wary about potential conflicts with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's employer requirements, and they might also need to ease workers' privacy fears.
"Employers are beginning to take a heightened interest in genomic medicine," Candice Sherman, CEO of NEBGH, said in a statement. "They clearly want to better understand genomic medicine and know what guidelines they should follow in making relevant benefit decisions. We developed this guide to provide a solid orientation on genomic medicine and give employers and HR a good place to start."
Genomic medicine could one day become a regular feature of employer-sponsored healthcare coverage, even though treatment based on research is some years away. But employers will need to understand genomic medicine as thoroughly as possible before they can sell employees on the value of including genetic testing — perhaps a tall order as employers often fall short of fully communicating benefits offerings, according to research.