What if people don’t want personalized health information?

My new paper, “When Personal Feels Invasive: Foreseeing Challenges in Precision Medicine Communicationhas just been published in Journal of Health Communication!

The article, coauthored with Kim Kaphingst and Jakob Jensen, explores the potential for unintended consequences in precision medicine, particularly consequences that could be caused or exacerbated during communication processes.

Precision medicine is the notion of a precise approach to healthcare, one that factors in individual genetics, environments, and lifestyles. Developments in genomic medicine and digital medicine are unfolding rapidly, and healthcare practitioners and communicators must quickly prepare to facilitate the implementation of precision medicine approaches. Most importantly, we must be ready to fully engage patients and the public in the process.

As we enter this new era of personalized care, there are likely to be many opportunities to take our health to new heights. But there will also be difficult decisions to make—about what we want to share as patients, about how we construct algorithms and use patient data as providers of health information.

Our paper highlights the potential for patient alienation in certain precision medicine contexts (and how it might be doubly true for minority groups). We then outline avenues for communication research that can help to facilitate the implementation of precision medicine. Such investigations would help ensure that medical and technological innovations translate into equitable and beneficial outcomes for patients, rather than exacerbating health disparities.

Here’s a link to the abstract. Happy to share the full paper upon request.

I also contributed some ideas from the paper to Data & Society’s “Fairness in Precision Medicine” Report, which is a terrific project and well-worth a read.



I’m a health writer and graduate student. I'm interested in the wily side of health – self sabotage, persuasion, and why health campaigns so often manage to inadvertently piss people off.

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