Precision medicine heralds a new age in healthcare. A time when we move away from standardized treatments to personalized regimens, based in large part on DNA. But now along comes a new idea that may further personalize healthcare – DNA-based personality tests.
Karmagenes, a Switzerland-based company, has developed a DNA-based test to explain the connections between people’s DNA and their corresponding personality traits. The company says that the test links specific genetic regions with 14 major behavioral characteristics such as how innovative, decisive and social a person is.
Customers swab the inside of their cheeks to collect DNA and then send it to the Karmagenes headquarters in Geneva, where it is studied for personality traits. The company then makes a 12-page personality profile and sends it back to customers.
Customers can then use the information in any number of ways—including for self-improvement, career advantage, or simply comparing it to other family members and friends for enlightenment or entertainment purposes. Eventually, the company hopes to use the information for compatibility-based matchmaking services.
“We hope to offer people a healthy mixture of nurture and nature,” said Kyriakos Kokkoris, one of the creators of Karmagenes, in a prepared statement. “Karmagenes allows people to get to know themselves better. By learning if you’re more outgoing or reserved, emotional or sex driven, you can better prepare yourself for situations and understand why you make the decisions you do throughout your life and day to day.”
Such a test may also prove helpful in patient care one day in the future—providing it ultimately proves to be consistently accurate.
Implications of DNA-based personality testing in healthcare
Imagine how helpful it would be if providers knew even a new patient’s personality better. Patients of either gender with stable emotions and logical personalities would find providers less likely to discount their complaints. Patients with an emotional need for additional comforting may get that comforting or least softer word choices from their providers.
Patients with potentially dangerous personality traits, such as a tendency towards baseless or unprovoked rage, suicide, or conditions such as Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, could be detected early and harm potentially deflected as a result.
Whatever the case may be, all patients stand to benefit from a provider’s better understanding of who they are.
Improved bedside manner has been shown to improve patient outcomes in several studies, the most recent of which was published in PLOS last year. You’ll find a good summary of that study written in laymen’s terms in The Advisory Board blog.
Good bedside manner is about more than just being nice. It’s about empathy and understanding what interaction tactics work best for each individual patient.
Indeed, accurate personality insights when acted on appropriately by providers, could make all the difference in patient outcomes and continued care.
We are still a long way off from using DNA-based personality testing for that purpose now. But the day is coming when we will each understand ourselves and each other better than we ever could before.
What we do with that new understanding is another matter entirely, because personality test results could also lead to discriminatory behavior, or falsely lead a provider to believe there is nothing wrong with a particular patient when there in fact is. After all, even patients with Munchausen Syndrome actually get sick or hurt sometimes.
We are still in the early days of mining DNA for data on the individual. It would behoove researchers, healthcare providers and others to proceed with caution.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.