Affordable genetic testing has greatly expanded the capabilities of MedTech apps, but before you rush to include genetic testing in your MedTech app, have you weighed the pros and cons of genetic testing? Commercial genetic testing has been popularized by successful apps like Ancestry.com and 23andMe.
However, despite public acceptance and the popularity of commercial genetic testing, some concerns may arise ethically and legally. Nevertheless, genetic tests are very important, and this technology is not going away just because there are some concerns.
Your organization needs to consider the various pros and cons of genetic testing so that you can decide whether or not you should provide this service and include it in your MedTech app.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Genetic Testing
The latest cutting-edge devices and the best app development practices cannot deliver genetic tests through an app. Still, apps like 23andMe and Ancestry.com make genetic test results a big part of their UX/UI design.
If you will offer genetic testing services, your MedTech app needs to deliver a great User Experience and make test results easy to understand for non-medical users. To do this, make sure to consider the pros and cons of genetic testing.
The pros of genetic testing are:
- Early detection of disease and health risks
- Greater understanding of heritage and ancestry
- Improved control over breeding plants and animals
The cons of genetic testing are:
- Anxiety inducing
- Ethical concerns
- Legal issues
Pros of Genetic Testing
The pros of genetic testing are easy to see. If you can identify health risks and diseases before they become major issues, you can take preventive steps to improve your health and treat diseases before they spread. Commercial genetic tests might not specifically identify diseases, but they can highlight risk factors that lead healthcare professionals to do more targeted testing.
Genetic testing can literally save lives and give doctors a more focused treatment approach for their patients. For example, if a genetic test shows a predisposition to obesity or diabetes, a doctor can help guide the patient to a healthier lifestyle and diet.
Another major pro of genetic testing is learning more about your family history and connecting with relatives you might not know even existed. Learning more about who you are and where you come from can be very important psychologically, and how can you even put a value on meeting a half-sibling or other relative who you never knew existed?
Genetic tests can change lives forever and offer users insights into their personal histories.
Genetic testing can also be very valuable to those who breed plants or animals. Armed with genetic test results, a breeder can selectively choose traits that are best suited for their plant or animal. For example, think about apples that grow bigger and taste better or cows that grow bigger and are less susceptible to disease.
The potential for breeders is astounding. Not only can genetic testing help breeders determine which traits are the most desirable, but it can also help them determine which traits are the most able to survive harsh weather conditions and are immune to disease.
Cons of Genetic Testing
The pros of genetic testing are very compelling, and it is because the positives are so compelling that commercial genetic tests have enjoyed popularity and public acclaim. However, there are cons associated with genetic testing, too, although they get less attention than the pros.
For one, genetic testing can cause anxiety in people, especially expectant mothers who are testing their unborn babies. The human body is typically far from perfect. Genetic tests are great for revealing potential issues, but it is important to note that they are not necessarily telling you what will happen but rather what may happen.
Since commercial genetic testing is so new, there are few studies into the mental toll these tests can have on people, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that in some people, these tests can induce anxiety and create stress.
Perhaps the largest concern, or con, associated with genetic testing are the ethical questions. We have already highlighted how genetic testing can be used to selectively breed plants and animals for more desirable traits. What happens if these genetic tests are used to see what traits an unborn child has?
It might be good to know if an unborn child will have a severe mental defect or life-threatening disease beforehand, but what happens when decisions are made based on these test results? There are many ethical concerns associated with genetic testing of humans, and when paired with gene-editing technology like CRISPR, which is getting more affordable and easy to do, there are a lot of concerns over selecting traits in children, equitable access to this technology, and more.
There will always be ethical questions involved when it comes to tinkering with human genetics. You have to ask yourself if your business is willing to get mired in some of these deep, hard-to-answer questions if you choose to include genetic testing as part of your MedTech app’s services.
One of the final cons of genetic testing could also be a pro, depending on who you ask, but we will leave that consideration up to you. There are a lot of legal questions that also come up with genetic testing. A good example of the legal gray area is DNA testing in criminal investigations. The Golden State Killer, a serial killer who avoided capture for nearly half a century, was caught by law enforcement officials who entered his DNA sample into an ancestry app.
Law enforcement acted without a warrant when doing this. They found a near relative match based on their sample and then found their killer by looking at that person’s relatives and cross-referencing the date and time of the crimes. You might be wondering how this could be a possible con of genetic testing, and you would be right to question this.
In the case of the Golden State Killer, nobody is upset that this person’s privacy was breached without a warrant, but this example brings up serious privacy concerns for many people. Plus, it must be noted that law enforcement has used this methodology in other cases too. The use of a private citizen’s DNA sample without their explicit knowledge might be covered in the user agreement, but it still brings up privacy concerns for many citizens.
Genetic testing is a very powerful tool. If you are going to provide this service through your MedTech app, be sure to thoroughly discuss the pros and cons with your team. This will help you build a superb User Experience.
Remember, you will also have to comply with HIPAA and other federal regulations too if you are handling medical data. If you need help weighing the pros and cons of genetic testing in your MedTech app, reach out to an app development partner and lean on their industry expertise.