Precision medicine is the notion of a precise approach to healthcare—one that takes into account individual genetics, environments, and behaviors. As we enter this era of highly personalized care, there will likely be opportunities to take our health to new heights. But there may also be unforeseen consequences.
To date, little is known about how healthcare consumers will respond to highly personalized guidance and treatment. The assumption is that responses will generally be favorable. Yet in the media and in online public discussions about precision medicine, concerns have been raised about invasions of privacy and autonomy.
What challenges could arise as precision medicine is implemented in research trials and clinical settings? And can we address them, or prevent them, through better communication?
These questions are explored in a recent paper published in the Journal of Health Communication. The authors—Communication PhD student Chelsea Ratcliff and professors Kim Kaphingst and Jakob Jensen—highlight the potential for patient alienation in certain precision medicine contexts, especially among minority groups. They offer an agenda for research to guide communication with patients and the public, in order to foster understanding of precision medicine and informed participation in precision medicine initiatives.
In engaging these important questions, scholars from across disciplines can help bring ethical concerns and patient perspectives to the planning and implementation of precision medicine, ensuring medical and technological advances that are fair and beneficial for all.
The paper, published online ahead of print, can be found here. (It’s paywalled, so for those without access I’ll gladly provide a copy of it.)
Chelsea L. Ratcliff is a doctoral student in the Department of Communication. Kimberly A. Kaphingst is a professor in the Department of Communication and an investigator in the Cancer Control & Population Sciences Program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Jakob D. Jensen is a professor in the Department of Communication and a faculty affiliate of the Cancer Control & Population Sciences Core at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.