Genetic screening (GS), defined as the clinical testing of a population to identify asymptomatic individuals with the aim of providing those identified as high risk with prevention, early treatment, or reproductive options. Genetic screening (GS) improves patient outcomes and is accessible to the community. Family physicians (FPs) are ideally placed to offer GS. There is a need for FPs to adopt GS to address anticipated genetic specialist shortages.
To explore FP attitudes, perceived roles, motivators and barriers, towards GS; and explore similarities and differences between private and public sector FPs.
We developed a semi-structured interview guide using existing literature. We interviewed private and public sector FPs recruited by purposive, convenience and snowballing strategies, by telephone or video to theme saturation. All sessions were audio-recorded, transcribed and coded for themes by two independent researchers with an adjudicator.
Thirty FPs were interviewed (15 private, 15 public). Theme saturation was reached for each group. A total of 12 themes (6 common, 3 from private-practice participants, 3 public-employed participants) emerged. Six common major themes emerged: personal lack of training and experience, roles and relevance of GS to family medicine, reluctance and resistance to adding GS to practice, FP motivations for adoption, patient factors as barrier, and potential solutions. Three themes (all facilitators) were unique to the private group: strong rapport with patients, high practice autonomy, and high patient literacy. Three themes (all barriers) were unique to the public group: lack of control, patients’ lower socioeconomic status, and rigid administrative infrastructure.
FPs are motivated to incorporate GS but need support for implementation. Policy-makers should consider the practice setting when introducing new screening functions. Strategies to change FP behaviours should be sensitive to their sense of autonomy, and the external factors (either as facilitators or as barriers) shaping FP practices in a given clinical setting.