The Impact of CancerGene Connect

CancerGene Connect has revolutionized the way we see patients at UT Southwestern Comprehensive Cancer Center. This patient driven computer software program has been used by over 12,000 patients at our institution over the last 5 years. Innovation in risk assessment started with Dr. David Euhus’ CancerGene Program. OMMDOM and UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center have taken this program to a new level and created a virtual genetic counseling environment. CancerGene Connect is a web-based patient driven program, which allows a patient to complete their family and medical history online prior to the medical appointment. Our genetic counselors have found that by allowing the patients to enter their family history at home, they obtain a more accurate history because they have a chance to contact their family members for details prior to their genetic counseling appointment. Our group feels that having this data prior to the appointment has improved our interaction with patients, allowing more time to address their needs instead of primarily spending our time gathering the information. The questionnaire takes patients about an average of 20 minutes to complete. Before the patient arrives the genetic counselor can calculate the risk for a specific hereditary syndrome, the patient’s individual risk for specific cancers, print out a complete pedigree, and have a psychological profile of the patient. CancerGene Connect is also in Spanish. Most useful to our group have been the patient letter templates and macros that allow us to write all of our clinical letters for our patients without repetitive data entry. Since the program already has the patient’s demographic information such as the referring physician as well as clinical information such as ethnicity and consanguinity, the program pulls all of this information automatically into the report, completing whole pieces of the clinical documentation that does not have to be completed by the counselor. The CGC program also has patient education materials in both English and Spanish that can be accessed as part of a mobile office. This came in very useful at our multiple satellite clinic sites; I could access commonly used fact sheets and patient materials no matter where I was or what I had with me.

CancerGene Connect also serves as UT Southwestern’s clinical database, collecting over one hundred different data elements that we routinely use for clinical research. Our group has used our extensive database to generate data for many research endeavors including multiple publications and clinical grants. With the introduction of this program, the genetic counselors have cut the total time involved in evaluating and documenting a cancer genetics patient in half, while not reducing the face to face time with the patient. The CancerGene Connect program has allowed our program to expand and has been indispensable with our telegenetics patients. It has allowed our genetic counselors to be more efficient while not sacrificing patient care.  As a manager, CancerGene Connect has proven hugely valuable in allowing me to have real time data on our program that is key for grants and funding. Our group has created a monthly dashboard report of clinical stats and projected growth for our administration using CancerGene Connect that has been very highly received. Innovative technology can only move the field of genetic counseling forward and allow for service to be assessable to everyone. CancerGene Connect has changed the way we deliver services at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

-Linda Robinson MS, CGC
Assistant Director, Clinical Cancer Genetics
UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center