a his & hers weblog of worlds apart

Tell your genetic counsellor how you really feel

I recently had an opportunity to receive honest and explicit feedback from a patient I encountered in the clinical setting. For confidentiality purposes I won’t discuss the details of the encounter, but I highly doubt that I will ever stumble into such a unique and serendipitous situation again. It was enriching, and left me wanting more.

Given that the information we provide in genetic counselling sessions is complex and often anxiety provoking, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that our patients have a lot to say, be it good or bad.

In training, genetic counselling students receive a lot of criticism from their clinical supervisors, teachers and program director. However, as far as I am aware, there is no system in place to elicit direct feedback from patients.

So why not provide a section on your clinic website where a patient can send an anonymous comment? Or why not keep a comment box in your clinic waiting room? As I see it, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Scania Price, designer of the “Always in Beta” t-shirt defines the term as:

Always testing.

Always pushing.

Always in development.

Never, ever standing still.

The applicability of this mantra to the field of genetics is too great to ignore. With countless other industries embracing the notion of “always in beta,” why shouldn’t we? And what better way to do this, than go to the source– the patients themselves.


The concept of patient feedback has been explored more broadly for the medical community:

  • Sites such as DrScore.com allow people to rate their physician in a public forum. The feedback in this case is intended for other patients, not the doctor’s themselves.
  • Recently, researchers at the Medical College of Georgia released the Patient Dashboard, a kiosk that can be placed in doctor office waiting rooms. The machine provides real-time feedback to physicians in the form of red lights (for dissatisfied patients) or green lights (for satisfied patients), and monthly status reports.


If you know of any other examples, please comment below. Has anyone been asked to provide feedback for their healthcare provider? Any experiences with a genetic counsellor you’d like to share?

One comment on “Tell your genetic counsellor how you really feel

  1. jane
    October 19, 2008

    Congratulations – what an interesting article. I’m personally looking forward to wide adoption of the patient dashboard concept! I am the author of a novel (love story) set in the biotech industry in which rages a debate about prenatal genetic testing. If you would like to receive a free copy please forward your address details to my email.
    Thanks. Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 39 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: