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Arch Hellen Med, 37(4), July-August 2019, 561-570


Personalized medicine: what it is and what it isn't

T.D. Mountokalakis
Medical School, University of Athens, Greece

Starting from Hippocrates and throughout the history of medicine, physicians have been aiming to tailor care to patient's individual needs. In recent years, the term patient centered medicine has been coined to describe the concept of taking into account individual patient preferences, needs and values. Patients are treated as equal partners in their own healthcare and are allowed a voice in all decisions. On the other hand, while emphasizing a similar notion about individualized care, the term personalized medicine has a markedly different origin. According to the British National Health System, personalized medicine can be regarded as "a move away from a 'one size fits all' approach to the treatment and care of patients with a particular condition, to one which uses new approaches to better manage patients' health and target therapies to achieve the best outcomes in the management of a patient's disease or predisposition to disease". The interest in this form of medicine has grown over the two recent decades, partly because of developments in genomics, such as the Human Genome Project, since personalized medicine uses information about a person's genes, and proteins to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. Nevertheless, in its broader sense, this model goes one step further by including other specific characteristics of the individual patient, such as age, gender, height, weight, diet, life style, environment, etc. More recently, in the titles of articles, conferences, and institutional programs the term personalized medicine switched to precision medicine, mainly because it opened up the prospect of taking genetic risk stratification beyond the individual patient to the population level. The question whether patient centered medicine and personalized/precision medicine might be combined in theory and in practice can be answered in the affirmative with one proviso: bioscientists to cooperate with clinical role models in medical education. Finally, while personalized/precision medicine and evidence based medicine have their own merits and limitations, these approaches complement rather than oppose one another.

Key words: Doctor-patient relationship, Patient-centered medicine, Personalized medicine, Precision medicine, Targeted treatment.

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