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“Background: The implementation of the National Genomic Medicine Service in the UK has increased patient access to germline genomic testing. Increased testing leads to more genetic diagnoses but does result in the identification of genomic variants of uncertain significance (VUS). The rigorous process of interpreting these variants requires multi-disciplinary, highly trained healthcare professionals (HCPs). To meet this training need, we designed two Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for HCPs involved in germline genomic testing pathways: Fundamental Principles (FP) and Inherited Cancer Susceptibility (ICS).

“Methods: An evaluation cohort of HCPs involved in genomic testing were recruited, with additional data also available from anonymous self-registered learners to both MOOCs. Pre- and post-course surveys and in-course quizzes were used to assess learner satisfaction, confidence and knowledge gained in variant interpretation. In addition, granular feedback was collected on the complexity of the MOOCs to iteratively improve the resources.

“Results: A cohort of 92 genomics HCPs, including clinical scientists, and non-genomics clinicians (clinicians working in specialties outside of genomics) participated in the evaluation cohort. Between baseline and follow-up, total confidence scores improved by 38% (15.2/40.0) (95% confidence interval [CI] 12.4–18.0) for the FP MOOC and 54% (18.9/34.9) (95%CI 15.5–22.5) for the ICS MOOC (p < 0.0001 for both). Of those who completed the knowledge assessment through six summative variant classification quizzes (V1–6), a mean of 79% of respondents classified the variants such that correct clinical management would be undertaken (FP: V1 (73/90) 81% Likely Pathogenic/Pathogenic [LP/P]; V2 (55/78) 70% VUS; V3 (59/75) 79% LP/P; V4 (62/72) 86% LP/LP. ICS: V5 (66/91) 73% VUS; V6 (76/88) 86% LP/P). A non-statistically significant higher attrition rate was seen amongst the non-genomics workforce when compared to genomics specialists for both courses. More participants from the non-genomics workforce rated the material as “Too Complex” (FP n = 2/7 [29%], ICS n = 1/5 [20%]) when compared to the specialist genomics workforce (FP n = 1/43 [2%], ICS n = 0/35 [0%]).

“Conclusions: After completing one or both MOOCs, self-reported confidence in genomic variant interpretation significantly increased, and most respondents could correctly classify variants such that appropriate clinical management would be instigated. Genomics HCPs reported higher satisfaction with the level of content than the non-genomics clinicians. The MOOCs provided foundational knowledge and improved learner confidence, but should be adapted for different workforces to maximise the benefit for clinicians working in specialties outside of genetics.”

This abstract is from the Genomics Education Programme-affiliated manuscript published in July 2023 in the academic journal BMC Medical Education. The full article can be obtained either via the sidebar’s Document Download, or via visiting the hosting journal’s webpage at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-023-04406-x