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Balancing Personalized Medicine and Personalized Care

Cornetta, Kenneth MD; Brown, Candy Gunther PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182806345

The current description of personalized medicine by the National Institutes of Health is “the science of individualized prevention and therapy.” Although physicians are beginning to see the promise of genetic medicine coming to fruition, the rapid pace of sequencing technology, informatics, and computer science predict a revolution in the ability to care for patients in the near future. The enthusiasm expressed by researchers is well founded, but the expectations voiced by the public do not center on advancing technology. Rather, patients are asking for personalized care: a holistic approach that considers physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. This perspective considers psychological, religious, and ethical challenges that may arise as the precision of preventive medicine improves. Psychological studies already highlight the barriers to single gene testing and suggest significant barriers to the predictive testing envisioned by personalized medicine. Certain religious groups will likely mount opposition if they believe personalized medicine encourages embryo selection. If the technology prompts cost-containment discussions, those concerned about the sanctity of life may raise ethical objections. Consequently, the availability of new scientific developments does not guarantee advances in treatment because patients may prove unwilling to receive and act on personalized genetic information. This perspective highlights current efforts to incorporate personalized medicine and personalized care into the medical curriculum, genetic counseling, and other aspects of clinical practice. Because these efforts are generally independent, the authors offer recommendations for physicians and educators so that personalized medicine can be implemented in a manner that meets patient expectations for personalized care.

Dr. Cornetta is Joe C. Christian Professor and chairman of medical and molecular genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dr. Brown is associate professor, Department of Religious Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Cornetta, Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, IB 130, 975 West Walnut St., Indianapolis, IN 46202; telephone: (317) 274-2240; e-mail:

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges