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AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2012;2012:85-92. Epub 2012 Nov 3.

Characterizing the use and contents of free-text family history comments in the Electronic Health Record.

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Center for Clinical & Translational Science, Department of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, USA.


The detailed collection of family history information is becoming increasingly important for patient care and biomedical research. Recent reports have highlighted the need for efforts to better understand collection and use of this information in resources such as the Electronic Health Record (EHR). This two-part study involved characterizing the use and contents of free-text comments within the family history section of an EHR. Based on a manual review of a subset of 11,456 cancer-related family history entries, 20 "reasons for use" were identified and the distribution across these reasons determined. A semi-automated analysis of the 3,358 unique comments associated with these entries was then performed to identify and quantify key categories of information. Implications of this study include guiding efforts for the improved use, collection, and subsequent analysis of family history information in the EHR.

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