RTF IX: Ethics, communication and economics

Coordinators: C. Borck (UzL), C. Bozzaro (CAU)

RTF IX is a collaboration of researchers from ethics, philosophy, interface design, e-health and economics. They want to contribute to the success of new therapeutic ideas, not only in research but also in daily practice. To achieve that, patients’ preferences, experiences and feedback are taken into account, specific communication challenges in scientific collaborations across specialized research fields are identified and addressed, and novel economic methods of evaluating the benefits and costs of precision medicine are developed.

What does this research area’s work build on?

Precision medicine poses major interdisciplinary challenges for research. Concepts, methods and data from very different areas must be combined - for example from genetics, physiology and cell biology, from clinical studies, from empirical studies on environmental factors, and from computer simulations. To combine the information for the benefit of research collaboration and of patients in healthcare practice, it must be translated between the different areas and parties involved. In doing so, the interfaces between medical practitioners and patients, practitioners and researchers as well as practitioners and computers are taken into account.

A major challenge for economics research is that precision medicine is faced with long-established methods of economic evaluation within health systems that were developed for conventional forms of medicine; these established methods tend to underestimate the true value of precision medicine to individual patients and to society at large. 

What are the main research objectives?

An important objective is the development of patient-oriented evaluation criteria for precision medicine – with a special focus on factors that improve the quality of life among patients suffering from incurable chronic disease. How can these factors be identified and measured, in ways that equip researchers and medical practitioners with meaningful criteria for the evaluation of alternative treatment strategies?

In the integration of relevant information from all research contributing to precision medicine, there is a need for rigorous scientific-philosophical analyses of the similarities and differences between the various fields of knowledge that must be aligned. To this end, an "epistemology clinic" is to be established, serving the researchers involved as a specialist scientific-philosophical advisor-.

Smartphone apps and web interfaces are developed to report research directly to medical practitioners and patients. These tools are to enable communication in both directions. Patient surveys can thus be carried out quickly and digitally, for example when collecting information about patients’ quality of life.

In its economics research stream, RTF IX will develop novel evaluation methods that identify and quantify the true value of precision medicine for individual patients and society at large, thus helping to obtain acceptance for precision medicine among the decision makers in healthcare and the wider political governance system.

What makes this research area special?

RTF IX has a unique interdisciplinary approach that can benefit the entire cluster.  Using quantitative and qualitative methods, research is done in close contact and collaboration with patients and other cluster members. Researchers in RTF IX believe that contributions from ethics, philosophy and economics are vital to maximize the benefits from basic research in the natural sciences and from clinical research in the development of precision medicine.


What does the research area contribute to precision medicine in chronic inflammation?

Precision medicine has greater prospects to be successful if appropriately designed for patients and for society at the outset, taking into account user and patient experiences and expectations as well as economic evaluations that are based on appropriate methods for precision medicine. The research of RTF IX is designed to help achieve this ambitious agenda.


Cooperation with other research areas in the cluster

Based on its ambition to enable and facilitate interdisciplinary communication, RTF IX seeks to collaborate with all areas of the cluster and to provide interfaces for communication across cluster units.