Recontacting or not recontacting? A survey of current practices in clinical genetics centres in Europe.
Sirchia F., Carrieri D., Dheensa S., Benjamin C., Kayserili H., Cordier C., van El CG., Turnpenny PD., Melegh B., Mendes Á., Halbersma-Konings TF., van Langen IM., Lucassen AM., Clarke AJ., Forzano F., Kelly SE.
Advances in genomic medicine are improving diagnosis and treatment of some health conditions, and the question of whether former patients should be recontacted is therefore timely. The issue of recontacting is becoming more important with increased integration of genomics in 'mainstream' medicine. Empirical evidence is needed to advance the discussion over whether and how recontacting should be implemented. We administered a web-based survey to genetic services in European countries to collect information about existing infrastructures and practices relevant to recontacting patients. The majority of the centres stated they had recontacted patients to update them about new significant information; however, there were no standardised practices or systems in place. There was also a multiplicity of understandings of the term 'recontacting', which respondents conflated with routine follow-up programmes, or even with post-test counselling. Participants thought that recontacting systems should be implemented to provide the best service to the patients and families. Nevertheless, many barriers to implementation were mentioned. These included: lack of resources and infrastructure, concerns about potential negative psychological consequences of recontacting, unclear operational definitions of recontacting, policies that prevent healthcare professionals from recontacting, and difficulties in locating patients after their last contact. These barriers are also intensified by the highly variable development (and establishment) of the specialties of medical genetics and genetic counselling across different European countries. Future recommendations about recontacting need to consider these barriers. It is also important to reach an 'operational definition' that can be useful in different countries.