A sizeable majority of industry professionals believe personalised healthcare would improve patient safety and save money in the longer term, but lack of investment and regulation is holding back progress.

This is the key view that has come out of a survey conducted by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and the Science|Business news service across Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the UK. The results are based on the opinions of almost 600 academic researchers, healthcare professionals, patient-group representatives, regulators and industry leaders.

The findings show that 80% of respondents believe personalised healthcare will reduce medical errors, while 64% believe “improved patient outcomes” to be a major benefit. Some 46% think total healthcare spending will be reduced in the long-term, ie over the next 15 years, but 58% envisage a short-term rise in costs over the next five years.

Also, over 60% agree that “the absence of clear regulatory guidelines is causing a delay in the market authorisation of personalised healthcare products and services”. Some 45% also identified “insufficient funding in R&D” and “misalignment between research policy and research conducted” as very significant barriers, while 80% believe European-wide cooperation will be necessary to speed the development and adoption of this approach.

Carl Johan Sundberg, coordinator for science and society at Karolinska, says the findings show that personalised healthcare “is at an inflection point that will have a profound impact on the effectiveness and cost of future treatments”. He added that it “addresses the challenges of the traditional 'one-size-fits-all' model when it comes to diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of disease”.

Prof Sundberg concluded by saying that “by combining knowledge about genetics, blood and other biomarkers with lifestyle factors, and through the use of modern information technology, healthcare stakeholders are facing enormous opportunities”. However, “numerous scientific, economical and societal issues must be addressed”.