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Advances in Preventive Medicine
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 695763, 8 pages
Research Article

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

Department of Family Medicine, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Laarbeeklaan 103, 1090 Brussels, Belgium

Received 10 April 2013; Revised 2 July 2013; Accepted 2 July 2013

Academic Editor: Katrin S. Kohl

Copyright © 2013 Sarah Daelemans et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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.