The amount of knowledge and understanding collected over generations and generations of medical professionals is truly staggering when viewed as a body of work. When the first healers treated their tribespeople with herbs and poultices from the earth and sea, they probably weren’t thinking too far past helping their patient stay alive and keep all their limbs and survive the next few days in an ancient, brutal world. These days, medical science is always looking ahead: to the next cure for a disease that has always been incurable, to the pain management system that will give people their lives back. Over hundreds of years of “modern” medicine, drugs and processes have been refined from leeching to blood transfusions. It’s no longer a “try it on everyone and see who survives” situation, but carefully planned out trials with a great clinical trial management system.
Medicine is always evolving, and it’s hard to keep up with it! What you knew a year ago may no longer be accurate; what worked last week might have been replaced with something even more effective just yesterday. With things changing so fast, there’s probably a lot that you don’t know about clinical science, so let us fill you in!
1. Not All Clinical Trials Report Results
In many cases you can look up different clinical trials and their results online. You might not be getting an exhaustive list of all the trials conducted around one disease or condition though, because strangely, not all trials report their conclusions to the public. If a trial fails miserably or doesn’t go the way the staff expected it to go, they may not publish any reports. This lack of reporting is a real problem in the clinical studies arena, as every bit of data is valuable even in the case of a drug or procedure not working as planned. Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what works!
2. Some Medical Tech Doesn’t Undergo Initial Testing
Now we know that sounds wild, and it is, but it’s not necessarily the same as a drug not undergoing sufficient testing. There has been an explosion of “medical tech” in the form of apps that monitor and track your health and habits, and a lot of it is tested in the field rather than extensively before it’s released. Take, for example, the Beddit app: an app that records your sleep cycle, how much you snore and so on, and lets you know how you can sleep better. Technology like this exists in a gray area between true medical tech and not quite medical tech. It might turn out to be very important to clinical science, but the initial testing is nothing like what happens in a clinical trial.
3. Many Doctors Don’t Understand Clinical Research
Medicine is a BIG industry. There’s so much information that there’s no way any one person can know and understand all of it completely. That’s why medical students eventually choose a speciality. Once those students go on to become doctors and professionals, they rely on others in the medical profession to know their jobs well and have all the information that they need, and they essentially stay in their lane and trust everyone else to do their jobs as well. A good comparison would be you, your car, and a mechanic. You know how to drive the car, and you might have an idea of where the problem is if there is one, but the mechanic specialises in that field so you rely on them to fix it properly.
4. There Are Ethics Involved in Clinical Science
As with all medicine, there is always the question of ethics that any medical professional must keep in mind. One of the main tenets in medicine is “First: do no harm.” It’s the most well-known part of the Hippocratic Oath, and it means that medical professionals have a responsibility to do as little harm as is humanly possible: unfortunately not all harm is avoidable. Clinical scientists and other medical professionals have to be ethical in the way they conduct their research and practices. There must be oversight of all research and practices to ensure that patients are being properly cared for, standards are being upheld, and all rules are being followed.
Though the risks and benefits vary in different kinds of research, and though some studies may fail and others may succeed, clinical science is an essential part of the medical industry. Without clinical science we wouldn’t have all the wonderful and life-saving treatments we have today!