Pre-natal family history to pretect moms-to-be

October 19, 2011 2:53:40 PM PDT
Family health history is critical in predicting someone's risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Now, a new system is in the testing phase using computers to protect new moms-to-be and their babies.

Your family history is one of the most important parts of predicting the risk of what are often genetically-passed-on illnesses. It's especially important for a pregnant woman to tell her doctor about them. Montefiore Medical Center is studying whether computers can help the process.

Vivian Pol, 38, is pregnant for the third time. But unlike her other pre-natal visits, she is taking part in a study to document her medical family history even before she sees the doctor for the first time. And it's done by computer.

Vivian checks off hypertension, or high blood pressure. Her sister has it. Vivian says she likes this new system.

"They're aware that there are health problems in my family," she said. "And they're going to monitor them every time I come in for my visits."

At this first time, the computer data is wirelessly printed out as soon as Vivian is done, and the OB/GYN has red flagged family health issues right in front of her. It can help insure a full-term pregnancy and a healthy baby.

"It helps the patient just by making them more aware of what their medical history is and how to communicate it to us," said Dr. Setul Pardanani, of Montefiore Medical Center.

Dr. Pardanani says patients sometimes find it easier to check off sensitive topics rather than to discuss them directly with the doctor.

Doctors at Montefiore say patients relate to the computerized tablet as a way to communicate information, and the printout gives doctors an immediate guide to tests and treatment.

The pregnancy printout also contains tips on eating and exercise for Vivian to take home, which she also can use to create a healthier household.

"It allows us to alter the risk not only in pregnancy, but in family members of patients that we provide care to," Dr. Pardanani said.

The study of this computerized family history is supported by a government grant through the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics and the March of Dimes, among others. Montefiore is one of five sites testing the computer system.

The study is being done at the hospital's Comprehensive Care Center. The center's phone number is 718-405-8040.