Genetic Testing – Science vs. Sales: Understandable Content and Actionable Recommendations

While consumer interest in ancestry genetics has experienced steady growth(1), the marketplace for health-related genetic tests not associated with ancestry products is floundering to meet sales projections or compel healthcare providers to recommend testing. Whether the product is launched and floundering or in the pre-launch phase, companies can avoid costly mistakes by evaluating:

  • Are sales materials accurate and understandable? Engaging? Empowering?
  • Are the results clearly explained?
  • Can the results be used to improve health outcomes?
  • Are the recommendations actionable?

If healthcare providers are not recommending the test, they may not understand the science behind the test. They may be unsure of how the test results can be used to improve patient outcomes. If they do not see the value for their patients, they may also be discouraging direct to consumer (DTC) purchases when asked their opinion.

If consumers are not making purchases, the market needs to identify the missing link in the product and/or sales materials. Words like allele, codominance, polygenic, heterogeneity, and phenotype are some of the simpler words used by doctors, scientists and statisticians to explain genetic testing.  This vocabulary is too complex for the standard population. 

Health-related genetic testing companies need to distill scientific research and healthcare jargon into simple, easy to understand vocabulary paired with actionable insights that are valuable and understandable to both the healthcare provider and the consumer.  Whether the test is established or newly launched, market dominance further requires blending these health and scientific materials with compelling content to drive sales.


Selling health-related genetic testing in today’s marketplace also requires identifying how human health behavior can facilitate the social marketing of a product in the most cost-effective channels. Consumers seek web-based and mobile responsive content delivered across multiple platforms and channels. Selling health behavior is different than marketing most other products. Pitching the value of identifying a possible disease risk is even more complicated, and thus requires experts who understand health behavior, medicine, and social marketing/promotion.


Today’s healthcare is largely driven by cost and time. Healthcare providers are eager to have tools to help diagnose and treat patients in the quickest, least costly, and most effective methods possible. However, research shows that as many as 50% of patients do not follow their medication prescriptions correctly, with up to 80% reported in some asymptomatic conditions.(2) Data also demonstrates that improved provider to patient communication, plus understanding of the benefits of tests, medications, and behavior changes are key predictors of patient adherence. (3) Providers may be less likely to recommend a genetic test if there is not a clear answer about how the test’s results can be used to drive behaviors or influence therapy decisions, or if it takes too long to understand or communicate the value of the test. 


Admittedly, having an impressive scientific and statistical team on board to develop your genetic test is pertinent. However, if they are the primary authors of your sales materials and test reports, your user experience may be too complex. 

On the flip side, what are the implications if your sales or marketing team incorrectly reports science, statistics, vocabulary, or acronyms pertinent to your test, or uses incorrect visual materials? No matter how impressive your test is, inaccurate text or visuals may limit the credibility and reach of your product in the healthcare space. 

Who is the qualified member on your team evaluating the accuracy of the science or health behavior methodologies in your sales materials? In your social media content? In your reports? In your sales pitch? Do you have someone on staff that speaks both science and sales? 


According to the World Health Organization, health education is “any combination of learning experiences designed to help individuals and communities improve their health, by increasing their knowledge or influencing their attitudes.” (4) Consumer health behavior is complex. Even when health products or services are free, many people do not use them. Likewise, patients wait long periods and pay a lot of money to see a healthcare provider with the aim of feeling better. However, as already explained, patients often do not make the recommended changes or follow their providers’ directions accurately. The role of health education and promotion is to help fill this void… to connect patients and healthcare through counseling, various modes of educational content, social action, and advocacy in a way that empowers people to take more control over their own health and well-being.


Simply stated, health education and promotion in the field of genomics are intended to:       

  • Accurately translate the science and value of a given test into simple, educational language;
  • Help providers and consumers recognize if a test is appropriate for a given situation;
  • Encourage a prescription or purchase through compelling sales materials via the print, web, and social content;
  • Develop simple, understandable test reports that include actionable insights for improving health outcomes;
  • Mobilize providers to recommend genetic testing to improve their ability to reduce healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes; and 
  • Empower patients/clients to advocate for their future health by understanding how their genetics, environment, and lifestyle may be impacting their health and then taking action to make behavior changes that may positively impact current and future health outcomes.



In the field of health-related genomics, health education and promotion are this bridge between the scientific research, healthcare, and marketing worlds. In order to efficiently and effectively bring a genetic test to market in a way that both physicians and patients can understand and use, you need someone who can translate your materials. In order to drive sales over time, you need someone who can provide the expertise necessary to help consumers understand the value in your product, encourage a purchase, and finally compel them to take action with the insights you’ve provided in the report. Avoid costly mistakes by ensuring you have the right person handling these key roles on your team.


By Dr. Marci Hardy, Ph.D. (Cofounder – NavGen)



  1. MIT Technology Review, Biotechnology/DNA Testing. 2017 Was the Year Consumer DNA Testing Blew-Up. Accessed October 7, 2019. 
  2. Chan, D.C., Shrank, W.H., Cutler, D.P. et al. Patient, physician, and payment predictors of statin adherence. Med Care. 2010; 48: 196–202
  3. Heidenreich, P.A. Patient adherence: the next frontier in quality improvement. Am J Med. 2004; 117: 130–132
  4. World Health [MH1] Organization. Accessed October 7, 2019.


NavGen helps genomics partners fill the holes they have in communicating their message and managing their projects efficiently to bring their health-related genetic test to market and support them once launched with new, effective ways to educate, engage, and empower prospective clients.

Our leadership team is comprised of Dr. Marci Hardy, Ph.D. (article author) who has expertise in health education and promotion, content development, social media, statistics, nutrition, exercise physiology, and patient advocacy, and Geoff Barron whose expertise lies in project management, user experience, marketing, analytics, and crisis management.

We can serve as a one-stop-shop to meet your various education, project management, and marketing needs; or collaborate with your existing teams/partners, serving as a translator between your research and development, marketing, genetic counseling, or web development and IT teams.


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