Background: Family health history can predict a patient's risk for common complex diseases. This project assessed the completeness of family health history data in medical charts and evaluated the utility of these data for performing risk assessments in primary care.
Methods: Family health history data were collected and analyzed to determine the presence of quality indicators that are necessary for effective and accurate assessment of disease risk.
Results: More than 99% of the 390 paper charts analyzed contained information about family health history, which was usually scattered throughout the chart. Information on the health of the patient's parents was collected more often than information on the health of other relatives. Key information that was often not collected included age of disease onset, affected side of the family, and second-degree relatives affected. Less than 4% of patient charts included family health histories that were informative enough to accurately assess risk for common complex diseases.
Limitations: Limitations of this study include the small number of charts reviewed per provider, the fact that the sample consisted of primary care providers in a single geographic location, and the inability to assess ethnicity, consanguinity, and other indicators of the informativeness of family health history.
Conclusions: The family health histories collected in primary care are usually not complete enough to assess the patient's risk for common complex diseases. This situation could be improved with use of tools that analyze the family health history information collected and provide risk-stratified decision support recommendations for primary care.