The objective was to evaluate the effect of an assessment strategy using the computer decision support system (the GRAIDS software), on the management of familial cancer risk in British general practice in comparison with best current practice. The design included cluster randomised controlled trial, and involved forty-five general practice teams in East Anglia, UK. Randomised to GRAIDS (Genetic Risk Assessment on the Internet with Decision Support) support (intervention n=23) or comparison (n=22). Training in the new assessment strategy and access to the GRAIDS software (GRAIDS arm) was conducted, compared with an educational session and guidelines about managing familial breast and colorectal cancer risk (comparison) were mailed. Outcomes were measured at practice, practitioner and patient levels. The primary outcome measure, at practice level, was the proportion of referrals made to the Regional Genetics Clinic for familial breast or colorectal cancer that were consistent with referral guidelines. Other measures included practitioner confidence in managing familial cancer (GRAIDS arm only) and, in patients: cancer worry, risk perception and knowledge about familial cancer. There were more referrals to the Regional Genetics Clinic from GRAIDS than comparison practices (mean 6.2 and 3.2 referrals per 10000 registered patients per year; mean difference 3.0 referrals; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2–4.8; P=0.001); referrals from GRAIDS practices were more likely to be consistent with referral guidelines (odds ratio (OR)=5.2; 95% CI 1.7–15.8, P=0.006). Patients referred from GRAIDS practices had lower cancer worry scores at the point of referral (mean difference −1.44 95% CI −2.64 to −0.23, P=0.02). There were no differences in patient knowledge about familial cancer. The intervention increased GPs' confidence in managing familial cancer. Compared with education and mailed guidelines, assessment including computer decision support increased the number and quality of referrals to the Regional Genetics Clinic for familial cancer risk, improved practitioner confidence and had no adverse psychological effects in patients. Trials are registered under N0181144343 in the UK National Research Register.
Keywords: primary health care, clinical decision support systems, neoplastic syndromes, hereditary, randomised controlled trials