Feasibility of couple-based expanded carrier screening offered by general practitioners.
Schuurmans J., Birnie E., van den Heuvel LM., Plantinga M., Lucassen A., van der Kolk DM., Abbott KM., Ranchor AV., Diemers AD., van Langen IM.
Expanded carrier screening (ECS) aims to inform couples' reproductive choice, preferably before conception. As part of an implementation study in which trained general practitioners (GPs) offered a population-based ECS couple-test, we evaluated the feasibility of the test-offer and degree of participant informed choice (IC). Trained GPs from nine practices in the northern Netherlands invited 4295 female patients aged 18-40 to take part in couple-based ECS. Inclusion criteria were having a male partner, planning for children and not being pregnant. We evaluated the feasibility of the organizational aspects, GP competence and the content of the pre-test counselling. Participant satisfaction, evaluation of pre-test counselling and degree of IC were measured using a longitudinal survey. We explored GP experiences and their views on future implementation through semi-structured interviews. 130 consultations took place. All participating GPs were assessed by genetic professionals to be competent to conduct pre-test counselling. Most (63/108 (58%)) consultations took place within the planned 20 min (median 20, IQR 18-28). GPs considered couples' prior knowledge level an important determinant of consultation length. 91% of patients were (very) satisfied with the GP counselling. After pre-test counselling, 231/237(97%) participants had sufficient knowledge and 206/231(88%) had a positive attitude and proceeded with testing. Our pilot demonstrates that offering couple-based ECS through trained and motivated GPs is feasible. Future large-scale implementation requires a well-informed general public and a discussion about appropriate reimbursement for GPs and health care coverage for couples. Providing (more) test information pre-appointment may help reduce average consultation time.