Electronic tool being piloted to give babies healthy start

By Molly Merrill
08:30 PM

A new computerized family history tool aimed at allowing providers to take a detailed family history during the first prenatal visit, helping screen for inherited conditions and preterm birth, is being piloted by the March of Dimes and its partner organizations.

The March of Dimes, along with the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics, the Genetic Alliance and Massachusetts General Hospital will begin piloting their new family history electronic tool in several clinical settings, including a federally funded health center, putting family medical history at doctors' fingertips.

Development of this new electronic tool was made possible through a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the <a href="/directory/health-resources-and-services-administration-hrsa" target="_blank" class="directory-item-link">Health Resources and Services Administration, Genetic Services Branch. Initial testing of the tool was recently completed at Tufts Medical Center, and long-term testing will continue this year at:

  • Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • Maine-Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency Program in Augusta and Fairfield, Maine
  • Montefiore Medical Center Comprehensive Family Care Center, Bronx, N.Y.
  • Mountain Area Health Education Center, Asheville, N.C.
  • Community Health Network, Indianapolis

"Our goal is to provide this new electronic family history tool to help healthcare providers determine women's risk for problems during pregnancy so they can take steps to improve the chance of having full-term pregnancies and healthy babies," said Siobhan Dolan, MD, a consultant to the March of Dimes and an obstetrician gynecologist and clinical geneticist at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Using state of the art technology, and building on the HughesRiskApp platform developed at Partners Healthcare for hereditary cancer risk, this new tool enables doctors to apply a sophisticated understanding of genomics and family history to give babies a healthier start in life.

Patients will fill out a standardized family history questionnaire in their doctor's office using a computerized tablet, rather than pen and paper. The information will then be analyzed electronically, and the tool will provide red flags and recommendations for healthcare providers based on current professional guidelines. On the basis of this information, healthcare providers may be prompted to ask the patient more questions, or refer her to a genetic specialist.