Archives For N of 1 experiments

N-of-1During my medical training, we were taught that if a patient responds to a treatment, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every patient will respond in the same way. The results in a single patient might be due to chance so it was important to look at the results of well-designed research studies before we could conclude that the treatment really worked.  In statistics, “N” refers to the sample size in an experiment so we referred to these individual observations as “N-of-1” experiments (and we did not look at them very favorably).

Unfortunately, there are lots of problems with research studies – they take a long time to complete, the patients in the studies are very carefully selected and may be very different from you, there is often bias in the way the results are interpreted, etc.

What if doctors and patients had tools that allowed them to design high-quality experiments specifically for the individual patient?

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New types of evidence

February 10, 2013 — 4 Comments

It can be difficult to figure out how to use the results of research studies (randomized controlled trials or RCTs) to make a healthcare decision. There are many other problems with RCTs that may be less obvious.

First, to perform an RCT can take years – you need to get approval from the hospital where you are performing the study because you are doing research on humans. Then you need to get funding for the study so you may need to apply for some grants. After the study is completed, the results need to be analyzed; and then a paper needs to be written and submitted for publication to a journal. It could take years from the time the results are known until the time they are published.

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