Utility of a virtual counselor (VICKY) to collect family health histories among vulnerable patient populations: A randomized controlled trial

Patient Educ Couns. 2021 Feb 18:S0738-3991(21)00134-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2021.02.034. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: This study is a randomized controlled trial comparing the efficacy of a virtual counselor (VICKY) to the My Family Health Portrait (MFHP) tool for collecting family health history (FHx).

METHODS: A total of 279 participants were recruited from a large safety-net hospital and block randomized by health literacy to use one of the digital FHx tools, followed by a genetic counselor interview. A final sample of 273 participants were included for analyses of primary study aims pertaining to tool concordance, which assessed agreement between tool and genetic counselor.

RESULTS: Tool completion differed significantly between tools (VICKY = 97%, MFHP = 51%; p < .0001). Concordance between tool and genetic counselor was significantly greater for participants randomized to VICKY compared to MFHP for ascertaining first- and second-degree relatives (ps<.0001), and most health conditions examined. There was significant interaction by health literacy, with greater differences in concordance observed between tools among those with limited literacy.

CONCLUSIONS: A virtual counselor overcomes many of the literacy-related barriers to using traditional digital tools and highlights an approach that may be important to consider when collecting health histories from vulnerable populations.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: The usability of digital health history tools will have important implications for the quality of the data collected and its downstream clinical utility.

PMID:33750594 | DOI:10.1016/j.pec.2021.02.034