Open Access Study protocol

Protocol for implementation of family health history collection and decision support into primary care using a computerized family health history system

Lori A Orlando1*, Elizabeth R Hauser2, Carol Christianson3, Karen P Powell3, Adam H Buchanan4, Blair Chesnut2, Astrid B Agbaje5, Vincent C Henrich3 and Geoffrey Ginsburg6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Duke University, 3475 Erwin Rd, Durham, NC, 27705, USA

2 Center for Human Genetics, Duke University, Box 3445, Durham, NC, 27710, USA

3 Center for Biotechnology, Genomics, and Health Research, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1111 Spring Garden St, Greensboro, NC, 27412, USA

4 Duke Cancer Institute, Duke University, 2424 Erwin Road, Durham, NC, 27705, USA, Center for Human Genetics, Duke University, Box 3445, Durham, NC, 27710, USA

5 Business Development Office, 1200 N. Elm Street, Moses Cone Health System, Greensboro, NC, 27401, USA

6 Center for Personalized Medicine, Duke University, 101 Science Drive, Durham, NC, 27708, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:264  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-264

Published: 11 October 2011



The CDC's Family History Public Health Initiative encourages adoption and increase awareness of family health history. To meet these goals and develop a personalized medicine implementation science research agenda, the Genomedical Connection is using an implementation research (T3 research) framework to develop and integrate a self-administered computerized family history system with built-in decision support into 2 primary care clinics in North Carolina.


The family health history system collects a three generation family history on 48 conditions and provides decision support (pedigree and tabular family history, provider recommendation report and patient summary report) for 4 pilot conditions: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, and thrombosis. All adult English-speaking, non-adopted, patients scheduled for well-visits are invited to complete the family health system prior to their appointment. Decision support documents are entered into the medical record and available to provider's prior to the appointment. In order to optimize integration, components were piloted by stakeholders prior to and during implementation. Primary outcomes are change in appropriate testing for hereditary thrombophilia and screening for breast cancer, colon cancer, and ovarian cancer one year after study enrollment. Secondary outcomes include implementation measures related to the benefits and burdens of the family health system and its impact on clinic workflow, patients' risk perception, and intention to change health related behaviors. Outcomes are assessed through chart review, patient surveys at baseline and follow-up, and provider surveys. Clinical validity of the decision support is calculated by comparing its recommendations to those made by a genetic counselor reviewing the same pedigree; and clinical utility is demonstrated through reclassification rates and changes in appropriate screening (the primary outcome).


This study integrates a computerized family health history system within the context of a routine well-visit appointment to overcome many of the existing barriers to collection and use of family history information by primary care providers. Results of the implementation process, its acceptability to patients and providers, modifications necessary to optimize the system, and impact on clinical care can serve to guide future implementation projects for both family history and other tools of personalized medicine, such as health risk assessments.