Impact of subsidies on cancer genetic testing uptake in Singapore

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Abstract

Purpose

Previous reports cite high costs of clinical cancer genetic testing as main barriers to patient's willingness to test. We report findings of a pilot study that evaluates how different subsidy schemes impact genetic testing uptake and total cost of cancer management.

Methods

We included all patients who attended the Cancer Genetics Service at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (January 2014–May 2016). Two subsidy schemes, the blanket scheme (100% subsidy to all eligible patients), and the varied scheme (patients received 50%–100% subsidy dependent on financial status) were compared. We estimated total spending on cancer management from government's perspective using a decision model.

Results

445 patients were included. Contrasting against the blanket scheme, the varied scheme observed a higher attendance of patients (34 vs 8 patients per month), of which a higher proportion underwent genetic testing (5% vs 38%), while lowering subsidy spending per person (S$1098 vs S$1161). The varied scheme may potentially save cost by reducing unnecessary cancer surveillance when first-degree relatives uptake rate is above 36%.

Findings

Provision of subsidy leads to a considerable increase in genetic testing uptake rate. From the government's perspective, subsidising genetic testing may potentially reduce total costs on cancer management.

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