Medical profiling and online medicine: the ethics of 'personalised healthcare' in a consumer age

New developments in medical profiling and online medicine are promised by their providers as leading to a new era of ‘personalised healthcare’.

These developments include direct-to-consumer personal genetic profiling and body imaging, and websites that provide health advice, storage of health records and medicines for sale. This report weighs up the benefits and harms, along with the ethical values that come into play.

The report

Medical profiling and online medicine: the ethics of 'personalised healthcare' in a consumer age

Published: October 2010

Key recommendations

  • Clinical value of personal genetic profiling

    Regulators should request evidence for any claims being made by companies offering direct-to-consumer personal genetic profiling about the clinical value of their tests.

  • Information about personal genetic profiling

    Government websites should provide information about the risks and benefits of personal genetic profiling, including the relevance for insurance.

  • Regulation of body imaging services

    Companies that sell body imaging services as a health check using CT, MRI and ultrasound scans should be regulated to ensure they are meeting standards of quality and safety.

  • Body CT imaging

    Direct-to-consumer whole body CT imaging should be banned. Part-body CT scans should only take place if it is in the best interests of the customer.

  • Information about commercial body imaging

    Government websites should provide information about the risks and benefits of commercial body imaging, including the relevance for insurance.

  • High-quality health information

    The UK Departments of Health should ensure that high-quality health information is available on their websites. All websites containing health information should seek accreditation from recognised schemes.

  • Risks of buying medicines online

    Government healthcare websites should provide clear and prominent information about the risks of buying medicines online and how to identify a registered online pharmacy.

  • Accreditation of online health record providers

    The Government should set up accreditation schemes for online health record providers to improve transparency and standards on how personal information is stored and used.

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