Veterans' experience in using the online Surgeon General's family health history tool

Nedal Arar, Joann Seo, Hanna E. Abboud, Michael Parchman, Polly Noel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Aim: To assess veterans' experience and satisfaction in using the Surgeon General's (SG) online family health history (FHH) tool, and determine the perceived facilitators and barriers to using the online SG-FHH tool. Materials & methods: A mixed-method using both qualitative and quantitative approaches was employed in this study. A total of 35 veterans at the VA Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, USA were invited to enter their FHH information using the online SG-FHH tool, complete the studys satisfaction survey and participate in a short semi-structured interview. The goal of the semi-structured interviews was to assess participants perceived facilitators and barriers to using the online SG-FHH tool. All participants were also provided with a printed copy of their pedigree, which was generated by the SG-FHH tool and were encouraged to share it with their relatives and providers. Results: The majority of participants (91%) said that they had access to a computer with internet capability and 77% reported that they knew how to use a computer. More than two-thirds of the participants felt that items on the SG-FHH tool were easy to read and felt that FHH categories were relevant to their familys health. Approximately 94% of participants viewed the SG-FHH tool as useful, and the majority of participants (97%) indicated that they were likely to recommend the tool to others. Content analysis of the semi-structured interviews highlighted several barriers to veterans' use of the SG-FHH tool and their FHH information. These included: lack of patients knowledge regarding their relatives' FHH, and privacy and confidentiality concerns. Conclusion: This study provides information on the performance and functionality of an inexpensive and widely accessible method for FHH collection. Furthermore, our findings highlight several opportunities and challenges facing the utilization of FHH information as a clinical and genomic tool at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). The results suggest that strategies that improve veterans' knowledge regarding the importance of their FHH information and that address their concerns about privacy and confidentiality may enhance the successful implementation of FHH information into VHA clinical practice. Implications: identifying a locally accepted method for FHH collection and documentation which can be conducted outside of the patient visit will reduce time burdens for providers and patients and allow for a focus on other important topics during clinic visits. Improvement in familial risk screening and assessment will enable the VHA to be prepared for personalized medicine and focus their resources on promoting critically important health behaviors for populations with the highest risk of developing chronic diseases and their complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-532
Number of pages10
JournalPersonalized Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Surgeon General's online tool
  • family health history
  • genomic services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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