Clinically relevant family history information is frequently missing or not readily available in electronic health records. Improving the availability of family history information is important for optimum care of many patients. Family history information on five conditions was collected in a survey from 163 primary care patients. Overall, 53% of patients had no family history information in the electronic health record (EHR) either on the patient's problem list or within a templated family history note. New information provided by patients resulted in an increase in the patient's risk level for 32% of patients with a positive family history of breast cancer, 40% for coronary artery disease, 50% for colon cancer, 74% for diabetes, and 95% each for osteoporosis and glaucoma. Informing physicians of new family history information outside of a clinic visit through an electronic clinical message and note in the EHR was not sufficient to achieve recommended follow-up care. Better tools need to be developed to facilitate the collection of family history information and to support clinical decision-making and action.
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