The Virtual Consultation: Practitioners' Experiences of Genetic Counseling by Videoconferencing in Australia
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Objective: Videoconferencing for clinical genetics services, or telegenetics, is becoming an increasingly utilized method of delivering genetic counseling to rural areas; however, there has been little qualitative exploration of the practitioner's experience, particularly for hereditary breast/ovarian cancer counseling. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with genetic practitioners (n=15) delivering telegenetics services in New South Wales, Australia. Interviews explored experiences, perceived aims of the service, satisfaction, and the advantages and disadvantages of the technology. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and thematically analyzed.Results: All practitioners were highly satisfied with telegenetics. They perceived the advantages of videoconferencing as primarily increased efficiency and convenience for genetic clinicians, minimized travel for the patient, reduced costs, and increased access to rural areas. Disadvantages included the inhibition of rapport building between genetic clinician and patient and the difficulty in detecting nonverbal cues. Telegenetics was seen as a structured interaction that allowed less time for emotional exploration than a traditional face-to-face consultation. Technical disadvantages involved visual resolution, connection speed, and interruptions to voice transmission. Conclusion: Practitioners were satisfied with telegenetics and perceived the advantages as outweighing the disadvantages.
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