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What is clinical research?

Clinical research involves the gathering of information with the goal of improving health care practices, and helping people live longer and healthier lives. New treatment and prevention strategies require thorough testing before becoming routinely practiced in patient care. These tests are most commonly called clinical research studies or clinical trials. There are many types of clinical research studies. Some are designed to find better ways of treating diseases, while others may concentrate on disease prevention or diagnosis. Clinical research studies can also look at other aspects of care, such as better understanding a disease process or improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses.

Types of clinical research studies:

  • Clinical Trials: Clinical trials are designed to learn if new treatments are safe and effective. These trials might be evaluating new drugs, new devices or procedures or new ways to use existing treatments.  
  • Observational Studies: In an observational study, researchers do not change your medical treatment. They only observe and collect information.

Why is clinical research important?

Imagine a world without insulin, antibiotics or anesthesia. The medications, vaccines and therapies we rely on today were the result of scientific discoveries made through careful research and volunteer participation. Clinical research can provide access to medical advances months or years before they may become widely available for routine care, helping to build the foundation for better treatments and outcomes in the future.  

Many people participate in research because they want to contribute to the advancement of health care. Some participate in clinical trials because other approved treatments have not been successful and they are seeking other opportunities. Before participating in a research study, patients should evaluate all of their options to help make an informed decision. Check out Participant Education and Safety for more information.

Getting Involved

There are many different ways to get involved with research:  
  • Participate in a Research Study: Researchers need the help of volunteers to answer important medical questions. Click available research studies for a complete list at Spectrum Health; or click here to search for research studies available internationally.
  • Support Research Efforts: If you are interested in contributing to research, the Spectrum Health Foundation can help direct your donations to a cause close to your heart. Need more information? Email or call 616.391.2000.
  • Share Your Personal Research Story: Have you or a loved one been impacted by clinical research? Click the link to share your story with the Spectrum Health community.