Research Article: The Use of Family History in Primary Health Care: A Qualitative Study

Date Published: July 14, 2013

Publisher: Hindawi Publishing Corporation

Author(s): Sarah Daelemans, Jan Vandevoorde, Johan Vansintejan, Liesbeth Borgermans, Dirk Devroey.


The aim of this study is to describe how Belgian family physicians register and use the family history data of their patients in daily practice. Qualitative in-depth semistructured one-to-one interviews were conducted including 16 family physicians in Belgium. These interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analysed. Recurring themes were identified and compared with findings from the existing literature. All interviewed family physicians considered the family history as an important part of the medical records. Half of the surveyed physicians confirmed knowing the family history of at least 50% of their patients. The data on family history were mainly collected during the first consultations with the patient. The majority of physicians did not use a standardised questionnaire or form to collect and to record the family history. To estimate the impact of a family history, physicians seldom use official guidance or resources. Physicians perceived a lack of time and unreliable information provided by their patients as obstacles to collect and interpret the family history. Solutions that foster the use of family history data were identified at the level of the physician and also included the development of specific instruments integrated within the electronic medical record.

Partial Text

Family history can be used to identify patients with a higher risk for a certain disease and to propose for these patients an adapted follow-up procedure. The family physicians that participated in this study recognise the importance of family history in primary care, but they also encounter several barriers for an optimal inquiry about and interpretation of the family history. Many physicians experience a lack of time and a lack of reliable information from the patient.




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