Medical research advances technologies, processes, and understanding of healthcare to raise the quality of delivery and outcomes in medicine. It’s no exaggeration to say that it affects the lives of everyone. However, many people know little about medical research as a process. This article is a much-needed introduction to medical research and how it impacts the world.
What is Medical Research?
Medical research is the scientific process of creating and developing ideas that are aimed to improve the health and well-being of everyone. Since it deals with people’s health, it is frequently a long, arduous, and complex process that has several stages of experimenting and re-assessing results to make sure every detail is accounted for.
In the case of conditions as complicated as cancer, medical research facilitates the discovery of new treatment techniques and medications to extend the life of patients, improve their quality of life, and even find cures.
How Do Medical Research Studies Start?
Like with many processes seeking innovation, the first stage of medical research involves identifying a problem. In healthcare, there is an abundance of gaps that need to be bridged and questions that need to be answered. Once a problem is identified, ideas are then created and developed to try and solve that problem. This is part of the researchers’ plan of study.
They will then need to secure funding for their study. The National Center for Biotechnology Information prepared a detailed list of the usual sources of funds for medical research studies. The list includes the federal and state governments, private industry, business, philanthropic organizations, academia, and others. These institutions invest in medical research and development to help advance the sector and in some cases, for profit.
Once funding is secured, researchers will begin their study. They hypothesize around their ideas and conduct experiments to see what works. They collect data and compare it with previous similar studies.
Where are Medical Research Studies conducted?
Medical researchers conduct their studies in specialized facilities, depending on the nature of their studies. Some conduct experiments at medical facilities including hospitals and clinics. Some have access to medical research institutions and universities. Studies related to medication and treatments may be conducted at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
Most of the time, medical research studies need laboratories with specialized equipment and a sterile environment.
When a study progresses enough, it will proceed with clinical trials. These trials are usually conducted at hospitals, research clinics, and other medical facilities with access to patients. In some cases, it can be difficult to find volunteers. Some studies that deal with uncommon conditions will require rare disease patient recruiting for the study to have enough viable data.
What are the Different Types of Medical Research?
The term ‘medical research’ encompasses a wide range of scientific studies. They are mostly categorized further into two main classifications – pre-clinical and clinical research.
Pre-clinical research is done after discovery science and before clinical trials. It’s further split into two categories.
The first pre-clinical research category is Basic. This is also sometimes referred to as discovery research. These studies are generally designed to improve the understanding of complex concepts. This type of research paves the way for further and more comprehensive research into the complex concept.
The second type of pre-clinical research is Translational. This is also often referred to as bench-to-bedside research and connects basic research to clinical trials. This type of research builds upon the findings of basic research with the help of specialists and other research studies. Its aim is to advance the application of basic research discoveries. Since this is usually the last step before clinical trials, translational research needs to prove the effectiveness and the safety of research studies.
Clinical research is done to assess whether a medical intervention including a new drug, device, or treatment is safe and effective enough to be used by and tried with patients. During this part of the study, researchers will tap into patient volunteers.
Here are the four phases of clinical trials.
- Phase 1 tests the safety of the medical invention in small groups.
- Phase 2 uses a bigger group to test the accuracy of the first phase and the effectiveness of the medical invention.
- Phase 3 tests both the safety and effectiveness of the medical invention on a larger sample size.
- Phase 4 is often called post-registration study because it can be run after the medical invention has already been cleared for public use. This is done over a longer period to record the side effects of the medical invention in real-world settings.
How are Medical Research Studies Published?
Once a medical research study concludes, their findings would often be published, where the study is opened up for further review and scrutiny by relevant individuals and communities. This also helps the results of the study to be made public so other similar research studies can gain access to data and build upon their findings.