Modern medicine has increasingly precise diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic options at its disposal: From oncology to psychiatry, the medical disciplines describe disease patterns in a more differentiated manner, predict disease risks and different disease courses more precisely, and adapt treatment strategies better to individual patients. The basis for this development is an increasingly detailed knowledge of the relationships between genetic characteristics, metabolic traits, behavioural patterns and pathological processes. In addition to advances in medicine itself and in associated sciences, from biochemistry to molecular biology to genetics, this increase in knowledge is also made possible by improved information technology processes for analysing large volumes of data (“big data”).
This development is referred to as “individualised medicine”, but may also be labelled by the terms “personalised medicine”, “stratified medicine” and “precision medicine”. Just as diverse as these labels are the associated promises: Diseases could be treated earlier or prevented in the first place, drugs and other forms of treatment could become more effective and at the same time be better tolerated. However, the individualisation of medicine is likely to come at a price. Health economists fear a cost explosion that could overburden the solidarity-based health care system, inadvertently resulting in a two-tier medicine. The doctor-patient relationship could also change considerably if individual medical treatment recommendations were to be replaced, even more than today, by laboratory-based therapy algorithms.