How can comparative effectiveness research (CER) be conducted so that we understand which patients are likely to respond to what therapies? How can CER be implemented in such a way as to balance population-based research findings with decision making at the individual patient level?
These are just two of the questions that will be addressed during today’s conference, “The Myth of Average: Why Individual Patient Differences Matter.” We also will look at some of the potential factors that cause individual patient differences. Are they due solely to biology or something else? And what role do patient preferences play in determining the best individual course of treatment? Whether it’s someone with cancer, heart disease, diabetes or depression, patients face choices not only among different drug therapies, but also among different modalities. Each patient weighs medication, surgery, physical therapy or lifestyle changes through a different prism. Individual preferences matter in the quest for achieving good clinical outcomes.
These issues demonstrate why it is so important to treat each patient as a unique individual and provide some important parameters for consideration by those charged with developing CER policy. Although it can be tempting to boil down CER findings into a recommendation for a single, standardized treatment option for all patients, we know that individual patient differences make that an ineffective and inappropriate course of action.
We can only realize the goals of improving the health care system through CER if unique patient characteristics are part of the discussion and factored into each stage of the research continuum — from the first step of developing the research questions through the utilization of the research findings in patient care plans. This crucial involvement of patients can create a truly patient-centered health care system.
We hope you'll follow the conversation on Twitter today using #myth2012 as we debunk the myth of the “average” patient and explore ways to improve health outcomes for the individual in a population-based health care system.