The Role of Clinical Studies in Today’s Medicine

Clinical studies reveal new findings and suggestions about modern medicine, disease, and biology. These studies constantly change how clinicians approach patient care and work towards the goal of ever-improving patient outcomes.

Getting to know clinical trials

Clinical research, which is usually based around trials on medical drugs and devices, procedures, and even behavior, can often help significantly lower rates of disease and lead towards viable treatment solutions. Usually, clinical trials will compare a tried-and-true method with a new method to determine which can bring about better outcomes. Trials may also compare two well-established intervention methods to see which is more successful. These trials are simply used to rule out the bad and proceed with the good. Physicians and doctors want to know that the procedures they perform and the medications they prescribe will help their patient get better, or simply help improve his or her quality of life. Without clinical trials, there would be no way to determine this.

“Clinical trials can often help significantly lower rates of disease.”

Trials are often randomized, meaning the participants aren’t specifically chosen for the trial. This way, there is no bias on who is chosen and the researchers get results that reach across a wide population. This method rules out the chances of adverse effects for one group of people. All of the participants chosen often have some type of health condition, minor or serious, and are treated with a new type of medication. For instance, a study may invite participants with high blood pressure to take a new type of high blood pressure medication to determine what the drug’s effects. The medication is typically not dangerous, but it also might not be FDA-approved.

These trials help physicians make more educated decisions when treating a patient. However, if a clinical trial is in its early stages, doctors may not put too much faith in the trial’s findings because the results can change over time. When the trial has been tested on a large group of people and has had consistent results, it will be published in a medical journal and physicians will more likely take advice from it.

Why are clinical studies conducted?

There are several reasons, though all have the same goal: to help push modern medicine forward. The common reasons why clinical studies are conducted are:

  • To understand new types of medical interventions. These interventions are a way to slow or completely stop a medical condition. They typically include some type of medical procedure, a new form of medication, or even certain behavioral changes that could improve a patient’s quality of life. Trials help determine whether these approaches can be used effectively by doctors.
  • To develop new diagnoses. Certain trials are used to test a new method that may help better diagnose a medical condition. Lately, these trials have commonly been used to determine easier ways to diagnose concussions, as previous and current methods proved to be precarious and inconsistent. Trials will continually test these new methods on large population groups to determine whether they are simpler or more accurate for physicians to use going forward.
  • To prevent the development of disease. Many clinical trials are used to determine the causal factors that lead to the development of a certain disease, such as cardiovascular disease. As a result of these trials, doctors know what signs and symptoms may suggest the imminent onset of a disease. This proven research also gives doctors the chance to offer preventative and proactive advice to their patients to help lower the odds of disease development. For instance, between 1980 and 2000, the rate of death from heart disease was cut in half thanks to continual clinical trials that helped practitioners understand its cause as well as its treatment. While the drop can partially be contributed to behavioral changes, medical treatments also helped.
  • To discover new ways to improve patients’ quality of life. Some trials are simply conducted to help people with chronic conditions feel better. For instance, specific conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease cannot be cured or treated. However, there are certain medications and procedures that can improve a person’s symptoms and overall quality of life while they deal with the disease. Of course, these treatments cannot bring a person’s memory back, but some treatments may help to slow the disease. Clinical trials work to discover which treatments work best in improving a person’s condition or simply alleviating their symptoms, even temporarily. These findings help make even the most dire of situations seem a little bit better for the time being.

Overall, clinical studies change the way physicians interact with modern medicine. While studies have to undergo several phases and approvals before becoming legitimate, this research helps push medicine forward and improve quality of care.

For more information about how clinical studies can help improve patient outcomes, please download our white paper Emerging Issues in Clinical Research.

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