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Open Access Research article

Individualised medicine from the perspectives of patients using complementary therapies: a meta-ethnography approach

Brigitte Franzel*, Martina Schwiegershausen, Peter Heusser and Bettina Berger

Author Affiliations

Center for Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of Witten/Herdecke, Gerhard Kienle Weg 4, Herdecke, D-58313, Germany

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:124  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-124

Published: 3 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Personalised (or individualised) medicine in the days of genetic research refers to molecular biologic specifications in individuals and not to a response to individual patient needs in the sense of person-centred medicine. Studies suggest that patients often wish for authentically person-centred care and personal physician-patient interactions, and that they therefore choose Complementary and Alternative medicine (CAM) as a possibility to complement standard care and ensure a patient-centred approach. Therefore, to build on the findings documented in these qualitative studies, we investigated the various concepts of individualised medicine inherent in patients’ reasons for using CAM.

Methods

We used the technique of meta-ethnography, following a three-stage approach: (1) A comprehensive systematic literature search of 67 electronic databases and appraisal of eligible qualitative studies related to patients’ reasons for seeking CAM was carried out. Eligibility for inclusion was determined using defined criteria. (2) A meta-ethnographic study was conducted according to Noblit and Hare's method for translating key themes in patients’ reasons for using CAM. (3) A line-of-argument approach was used to synthesize and interpret key concepts associated with patients’ reasoning regarding individualized medicine.

Results

(1) Of a total of 9,578 citations screened, 38 studies were appraised with a quality assessment checklist and a total of 30 publications were included in the study. (2) Reasons for CAM use evolved following a reciprocal translation. (3) The line-of-argument interpretations of patients’ concepts of individualised medicine that emerged based on the findings of our multidisciplinary research team were “personal growth”, “holism”, “alliance”, “integrative care”, “self-activation” and “wellbeing”.

Conclusions

The results of this meta-ethnographic study demonstrate that patients’ notions of individualised medicine differ from the current idea of personalised genetic medicine. Our study shows that the “personal” patients’ needs are not identified with a specific high-risk group or with a unique genetic profile in the sense of genome-based “personalised” or “individualised” medicine. Thus, the concept of individualised medicine should include the humanistic approach of individualisation as expressed in concepts such as “personal growth”, “holistic” or “integrative care”, doctor-patient “alliance”, “self-activation” and “wellbeing” needs. This should also be considered in research projects and the allocation of healthcare resources.

Keywords:
CAM; Qualitative studies; Meta-ethnography; Person-centred medicine; Individualised medicine; Personalised medicine