Obtaining family history from parents and siblings who aren't very forthcoming about their medical history can be tricky. A new tool from the Department of Health and Human Services may make filling out your family history much easier.
Whether it's risk of cancer, heart disease, thyroid disease, or adult -onset diabetes we know that a large percentage of our risk is related to genetics and our family history.
The online tool, called My Family Health Portrait, collects information in a way that is easy for family members to share and for your Physician to use. This offers doctors and patients a convenient way to collect and organize an expanded range of family history information outside of the time constraints and pressures of the office visit.
My Family Health Portrait was introduced in 2004 as a form that patients could print and take to their medical appointments. But what is cool about the revised version (available at https://familyhistory.hhs.gov), is that it allows you to input, save, and download your information. You can share the file with other family members and allow them to add their own information if they choose, and they can send it to their physicians via a secure connection.
Here is how it works: if you create a file with your own history, you are prompted to note the dates when you had certain diseases (if any) or to add diseases not on the default list. You can also add health information about your immediate family members (siblings, parents, children, aunts, and uncles) with options to add more family members. If you give your brother the file, it asks him whether he is a family member and reorients the data around him. This prevents the duplication of data; your brother would only need to input health data that are unique to him.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, building the basics of a family health history should take about 15-20 minutes. Beyond that, the more family members someone includes, the longer it takes. The history may be downloaded onto a patient's own computer, and it is not automatically accessible by the government or by any health care provider without the patient's permission. The entire program is available for downloading and customizing at no charge.
For those of you who have a hard time grilling family members in person or if your siblings are more private about their histories this provides a way to keep the family history together in one file and input information as you wish.