Family health history discussion in patient-provider encounters

Nina Shiang, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Ascertaining the family health history (FHH) may provide insight into genetic and environmental susceptibilities specific to a variety of chronic diseases, including type II diabetes mellitus. However, discussion of FHH during patient-provider encounters has been limited and uncharacterized. A longitudinal, observational study was conducted in order to compare the content of FHH topics in a convenience sample of 37 patients, 13 new and 24 established. Each patient had an average of three follow-up encounters involving 6 staff physicians at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital (VHA) in San Antonio, TX from 2003 to 2005. A total of 131 encounters were analyzed in this study. The average age of the selected population was 68 years and included 35 males and two females. Transcriptions of encounters were obtained, coded and analyzed, in NVIVO 8. Of the 131 total encounters transcribed among the 37 patients, only 24 encounters (18.3%) included discussion of FHH. Additionally, the relationship between FHH discussion and discussion of self-care management (SCM) topics were assessed. In this study, providers were more likely to initiate discussion on family health history among new patients in the first encounter (ORnew = 8.55, 95% CI: 1.49–52.90). The discussion of FHH occurred sporadically in established patients throughout the longitudinal study with no apparent pattern. Provider-initiated FHH discussion most frequently had satisfactory level(s) of discussion while patient-initiated FHH discussion most frequently had minimal level(s) of discussion. FHH discussion most oftentimes involved topics of cancer and cardiovascular disease among primary-degree familial relationships. Overall, family health histories are largely, an underutilized tool in personalized preventive care.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Shiang, Nina, "Family health history discussion in patient-provider encounters" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1474835.