Personalizing Medicine: Disease Prevention in silico and in socio
Proponents of the emerging field of P4 medicine (defined as personalized, predictive, preventive and participatory) argue that computational integration and analysis of patient-specific “big data” will revolutionize our health care systems, in particular primary care-based disease prevention. While many ambitions remain visionary, steps to personalize medicine are already taken via personalized genomics, mobile health technologies and pilot projects. An important aim of P4 medicine is to enable disease prevention among healthy persons through detection of risk factors. In this paper, we examine the current status of P4 medicine in light of historical and current challenges to predictive and preventive medicine, including overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Moreover, we ask whether it is likely that in silico integration of patient-specific data will be able to better deal such challenges and to turn risk predictions into disease-preventive actions in a wider social context. Given the lack of evidence that P4 medicine can tip the balance between benefits and harms in preventive medicine, we raise concerns about the current promotion of P4 medicine as a solution to the current challenges in public health.
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