Listed in Issue 228


FRANZEL and COLLEAGUES, (1)Center for Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Health, University of  Witten/Herdecke, Herdecke, Germany. conducted a meta-ethnographic study to investigate various concepts of individualised medicine inherent in patients' reasons for using Complementary and Alternative medicine (CAM).


Personalized (or individualized) 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.


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.


(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".


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 individualized medicine should include the humanistic approach of individualization 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.


Franzel B(1), Schwiegershausen M, Heusser P, Berger B. Individualised medicine from the perspectives of patients using complementary  therapies: a meta-ethnography approach. BMC Complement Altern Med 13:124. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-124. Jun 3 2013.

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