My Family Health Portrait, a tool from the Surgeon General

image of family from FamilyHistory.hhs.govTalking with your health care worker about your family health history can help you stay healthy!

Using My Family Health Portrait you can:

  • Enter your family health history.
  • Print your family health history to share with family or your health care worker.
  • Save your family health history so you can update it over time.

Selected Q&A

Why is family health history useful?

Your family health history can help your health care practitioner provide better care for you. It can help identify whether you have higher risk for some diseases. It can help your health care practitioner recommend actions for reducing your personal risk of disease. And it can help in looking for early warning signs of disease.

What are the key features of the Surgeon General’s family health history tool?

The Surgeon General’s “My Family Health Portrait” is an internet-based tool [built on Microsoft Healthvault] that makes it easy for you to record your family health history. The tool is easy to access on the web and simple to fill out. It assembles your information and makes a “pedigree” family tree that you can download. It is private–it does not keep your information. It gives you a health history that you can share with family members or send to your health care practitioner.

How long does it take to fill out the form? What do I do with it then?

It should only take about 15 to 20 minutes to build a basic family health history. Individuals with larger families will spend more time entering in their information. Then you have the option of sharing it with other family members, if you wish. They may help provide information you didn’t know. And relatives can start with your information and create their own history. You will also probably want to provide your health history to your health care practitioner. You and your health care practitioner should review it together before making it part of your medical record.

What about my privacy? Does the government (or others, like my employer) have access to my information?

The Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait tool does NOT keep a government record of the information you fill in nor make your health information available to anyone else but you. It only provides the software for organizing your information. By accessing the tool on the web, you make use of that software. But the information you fill in is never available to anyone else, unless you choose to share or disclose it. After you fill in your information, it is available only to you for downloading. After that, it’s up to you whether you want to share the information with other family members or provide it to your health care practitioner.

Can doctors use information from the tool even if they don’t have EHRs?

Yes. The most important goal is simply to record your information. The Surgeon General’s My Family Health Portrait tool can help you do that easily. The information will be useful to you and your health care practitioner whether or not the practitioner uses electronic records yet.

What kinds of organizations might be likely “adopters” of the tool and its code?

Many health plans already provide web-based portals for their customers, and many of them make their customers’ electronic personal health records securely available on-line. They could offer their own version of the family health history tool to their customers as part of their suite of electronic information services. Many health care payers also provide portals or websites where the tool could be included under their own brand. Vendors who produce EHR and PHR products could build the tool into their products, possibly adding custom features. Disease advocacy and patient-support groups could offer their own versions of the tool, customized to focus on areas of particular concern. Others including health professional and pharmacy organizations, physician practices or other providers might wish to adopt and customize the tool. Adopters may be commercial or non-commercial.

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