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


Published 12/10/2010

Personalised heathcare cover
DNA kit

The term ‘personalisation’ has become very widespread, with many companies, policy makers and doctors claiming that this is the future of healthcare.

We found several meanings for ‘personalised healthcare’. For example, it can mean healthcare that is tailored to a person’s specific characteristics, or healthcare where more responsibility is given to individuals rather than medical professionals.

Links with responsibilisation and consumerisation

Some of these types of personalised healthcare correspond with two key social pressures, called ‘responsibilisation’ and ‘consumerisation’. These pressures are not just relevant to healthcare, but present particular ethical challenges for the developments being considered in this report.


Policy makers in the UK and elsewhere often encourage people to take more responsibility for their own health – to lead a healthy lifestyle and play an active role in managing their healthcare. Developments in medical profiling and online medicine can provide new tools to enable people to take more responsibility for their health.


There is nothing new about being able to select and pay for healthcare in the private sector, but today even public healthcare services are aiming to become more user focused. A consumerist approach to healthcare and the new technologies available have been seized upon by firms offering medical profiling and online medicine services.