It is actually pretty simple to define clinical effectiveness research (CER) — any research that attempts to determine if something really works in health care.
The Challenges of Studying CER
To answer if something works can actually be very challenging.
In the eyes of the patient, something may “work” if it makes them feel better. For example, steroids can make someone feel better or make a rash go away but may (and likely) is covering up a larger problem. Also, steroids have side effects such as weight gain. For the doctor, a complex operation may “work” to treat an illness but the patient may be left with long-term disabilities and never feel normal again. For the employer or payer, a treatment may “work” only if it is less expensive than an alternative.
Organizations, such as PCORI, are on a mission to find out what “works”.
New Clinical Effectiveness Research Resources
I am very excited about new resources provided by the National Institute of Health that were created for patients and providers addressing clinical effectiveness research. PubMed Health is a starting place for CER. Within this resource, you can search and filter for a specific area of interest. Check out the recent posting by NIH regarding research on research methods.