Electronic tool helps docs screen for pregnancy problems

A tool enabling doctors to electronically take a detailed family history during a woman's first prenatal visit currently is being tested by several hospitals in partnership with the March of Dimes, the organization recently announced. The tool is geared toward helping providers to screen for inherited conditions and preterm birth, as recommended by clinical guidelines.             

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

"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, a consultant to the March of Dimes and an obstetrician gynecologist and clinical geneticist at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Montefiore, based in Bronx, N.Y., is one of six facilities that have tested or are testing the tool.        

Long term testing will continue at Montefiore this year, as well as at Massachusetts General Hospital; Maine-Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency Program in Augusta and Fairfield, Maine; Mountain Area Health Education Center, Asheville, N.C.; and Indianapolis-based Community Health Network. Initial testing recently was completed at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

This tool is not the first tool used to help screen for inherited conditions and other problems. In 2009, the Surgeon General released an electronic-health-record-compatible family history tool. That tool, however, is more consumer oriented, as it primarily is for the individual patient's use. In contrast, the March of Dimes tool becomes part of the patient's record.

To learn more:
- here's the press release
- read this Healthcare IT News article