Every treatment, intervention, medication, way of care, and aftercare in the medical field or health care system came from discoveries. This high quality of care we can experience today was not discovered overnight, but rather through years of effort by medical professionals who investigated the risk factors, causes, preventions, and treatments of diseases. This type of investigation is known as medical/health research.
The general definition of research is, 'an investigation that is intentionally designed to help develop or contribute to knowledge'. When you add a medical purpose to 'research', the general definition stays the same, but the goal becomes more specific. Ultimately, the goal shifts to a focus on increasing medical knowledge, improving patient care, developing new medicines or procedures, and enhancing the already existing medicines and procedures.
Forms of Medical Research
There are several forms of medical research being conducted today. Here are 3 common forms:
- Basic or Laboratory-based research: This is usually conducted in a laboratory where chemical interactions of biological materials are observed in a controlled environment. For most researchers, this is the first step toward developing methods or products that can be used in other forms of research studies.
- Clinical Trials: This is perhaps the most familiar form of healthcare research. Often, patients volunteer to participate in these studies to test the efficacy and safety of new medical interventions. Alternatively, medical interventions on participants may not be used, but only observation instead.
- Epidemiological Research: An increasingly large portion of health research is now information based. A great deal of research entails the analysis of data and biological samples that were initially collected for diagnostic, treatment, or billing purposes, or that were collected as part of other research projects, and are now being used for new research purposes. This secondary use of data is a common research approach in fields such as epidemiology, health services research, and public health research, and includes analysis of patterns of occurrences, determinants, and natural history of the disease; evaluation of health care interventions and services; drug safety surveillance; and some genetic and social studies
The Importance of Research in Medicine
Why is research important in medicine? The simple answer is that medical research has led to many medical breakthroughs and developments. It would also strongly contribute to shaping the future of medicine.
A. Medical research importance in disease diagnosis:
Medical research has led to the development of diagnostic tools and technologies that allow for earlier and more accurate diagnoses of diseases.
For instance, breast cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. Medical research led to the development of an effective screening method known as mammography which has resulted in earlier detection and a 20% fall in mortality rates.
Another example is the development of pap smears for the early diagnosis of cervical cancer. This as well as caused a significant decrease in late presentation and mortality rates due to cervical cancer.
A host of other effective screening methods have been developed as a result of medical research such as genetic testing, imaging techniques, and so on.
B. The importance of medical research in innovative treatments
Medical research has led to the development of new treatments for a wide range of diseases, such as cancer, allergies, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, and so on.
Research is essential to find out what treatments work best, and more specifically what treatments work best for what patient. It can provide important information about how effective a medical intervention is and its possible adverse effects. These interventions include drugs, vaccines, medical devices, and others.
By being specific with participant requirements, medical professionals can study how certain groups of people react to certain treatments. An example of this can be seen here at Infiuss Health. As a CRO in Africa, we at Infiuss Health focus on the demographics of the continent to ensure people of African ancestry receive effective care.
Medical research would lead to newer developments in medicine such as personalized medicine and targeted therapies, that would ensure that each individual would have treatment options unique to them. Increasing research in this area is the only way to make this a reality in the future of medicine.
C. The role of medical research in disease prevention
Medical research has contributed to the prevention of diseases such as polio, smallpox, and measles which caused the deaths of millions of people in the past.
Recently, following the Covid-19 pandemic, medical research led to the development of vaccines that gradually slowed down the progress of the disease.
D. The importance of medical research in public health
Medical research has contributed to our understanding of public health issues and how to address them.
A typical example was in 1854 when there was an outbreak of cholera in the Golden Square Area in London. An Anaesthesiologist known as John Snow conducted an epidemiological study and found that the source of contamination was a public pump. When the contaminated pump was closed from public access, the outbreak of cholera ended.
Research provides important information about disease trends and risk factors, outcomes of treatment or public health interventions, functional abilities, patterns of care, and health care costs and use.
E. Medical research's importance in improving the economy:
Economists have found that medical research can have an enormous impact on the quality of healthcare which in turn affects human health and longevity.
Healthy individuals tend to be more productive and that contributes greatly to the national economy. If the research enterprise is impeded, or if it is less robust, important societal interests are affected.
Covid-19 vaccine development, for example, contributed to the lifting of the lockdown in many countries and allowed individuals to resume work.
Compared to treatment, current research on disease prevention shows that preventive services are able to significantly reduce deaths and illnesses at reasonable costs. All of these findings have informed and influenced national budget planning and policy decisions.
The simple fact is that clinical research improves our lives. It leads to significant discoveries, improves health care, and ensures that patients receive the best care possible. It is what makes the development of new medicines and treatments possible, without it we would not be able to move forward in the development of medicine.
Infiuss Health, as a CRO in Africa, aims to make it easier to do more clinical trials/ medical research in Africa by use of technology and other means.
When you support, participate in, or conduct medical research, you are helping to continue to build the future of medicine.