Family history is known to be a risk factor for many common, chronic conditions such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes. Collecting family history data can  help medical professionals identify families at increased risk for the development of certain types of cancer.

Family history information is often collected during medical visits. The data collected varies from practice to practice, as does the way in which it is used to inform clinical care. The Clinical Genetics Institute is collaborating with several different partners to develop electronic methods to collect and store family history information.

The first step in this process is to define and standardize common family health information collected during general medical visits. The next step will be to develop a method to gather family history information electronically. Finally, the gathered information can be used to develop clinical decision support involving risk assessment based on the family history information gathered.

Advantages to collecting family history information

  • Accessible, acceptable, inexpensive
  • Generally accurate (analytic validity-how accurately does tool identify disease among a person’s relatives)
  • Can be used to stratify risk (clinical validity-how well does family history of disease stratify risk for disease and predict future disease)
  • May improve prevention efforts (clinical utility-assessment of impact and usefulness of the tool for individuals, family and society)
  • The more information collected increases the predictive value
  • Start with family risk before ordering a genetic test

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