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Collecting a Family History

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Importance of Collecting Patient Family Health History

A family health history (PDF) helps physicians and other health care practitioners provide better care for patients.

A properly collected family history can:

  • Identify whether a patient has a higher risk for a disease.
  • Help the health care practitioner recommend treatments or other options to reduce a patient’s risk of disease.
  • Provide early warning signs of disease.
  • Help plan lifestyle changes to keep the patient well. 

Types of Information to Be Included in Family History

A family history is a lifetime record that patients should provide to all their new physicians when receiving health care.

The history should be detailed (PDF), including:

  • First-, 2nd- and 3rd-degree relatives
  • Age for all relatives (age at time of death for the deceased)
  • Ethnicity (some genetic diseases are more common in certain ethnic groups)
  • Presence of chronic diseases

Patients can access the “My Family Health Portrait” to:

  • Enter their family health history.
  • Learn about their risk for conditions that can run in families.
  • Print their family health history to share with family or their health care provider.
  • Save their family health history so they can update it over time.

Family History and Prenatal/Pediatric Screening

Patient questionnaires can provide useful material to physicians who want to gather information from a couple either prior to pregnancy or during a pregnancy (PDF).  

Other questionnaires can help the health care professional get the necessary history of a child (PDF) in order to help with a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Watch "Family Health History Splainer"

From Geisinger Health System


Family Health History Splainer

Additional Resources for Patients

National Human Genome Research Institute: Patients can find a listing of online tools for generating a family history.

Disease InfoSearch: Patients can use this resource to learn more about the signs and symptoms of conditions, the latest research and how to access support.

Genetics Home Reference: Patients can look up information about the effects of genetic variations on human health.

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