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Guidelines: One size fits all or eventual move to mass customization?

by Vijay Goel

Sat in on an interesting lunch discussion with Michael Howe, CEO of MinuteClinic. The topic was delivering consumerism, and the delivery mechanism of the retail clinics for relatively well defined, limited scope primary care concerns has certainly been innovative and popular, with thousands opening (or planned) across the country.

The discussion took an interesting twist, when a representative from Eliza, the medical communications company, started to talk about how consumer communications are increasingly effective when targeted to customer segments and pre-expressed preferences.

This brings up an interesting crossroads– as evidence-based medicine increasingly pushes a singular “best practice” based on clinical trials and statistical evidence, the rest of the consumer environment is moving toward personalization/ mass customization where consumers are increasingly given a personalized solution that meets their own niche wants/needs. As consumers are increasingly asked to be participants in their own care, will the paternalistic best practice based on one scientist’s approach to a population become the norm executed via “cookbook medicine” delivered by less trained providers (who may not be able to question conventional wisdom later reversed) or will we see increasingly decentralized flexibility of guidelines to optimize for a particular individual’s situation and demands?

My guess? Nobody complains about the lack of adherence of consumers in consuming soft drinks, cigarettes, or other acquired tastes…