Types of medical research

Medical research is different from a doctor’s examination of a patient. Doctors examine patients to find out what is causing their health issues. This is called diagnostic examination and is aimed at helping people get better. 

There are 3 types of medical research:  

  • Research aimed at developing better treatments for diseases and conditions. For example, a better medicine for headaches, a new kind of heart valve or a new treatment for depression.
  • Research aimed at learning more about a disease or how the body works. How does skin react to sunlight? Does eating licorice cause high blood pressure? What causes ADHD?
  • Research to find better ways to detect and diagnose diseases. How can we detect cancer earlier? How can we tell if someone has heart disease?

How does medical research work?

The people who participate in medical research are often referred to as ‘human subjects’ or simply ‘subjects’. Both sick people and healthy people can participate as subjects in medical research. Participation is always voluntary. Subjects can decide to stop taking part in a medical research project at any time.

Medical research is carried out by doctors and scientists who know a lot about the topic being studied. Many research projects only gather information, like data about body temperature or the results of blood tests. The human subjects in studies like these undergo a physical examination, a test (for example, a blood test) or a measurement (for example, blood pressure). There are also research projects that test new treatments, surgical procedures or medicines. In projects like this, the researchers usually compare the effects of  the new treatments with existing ones.