Every year new medications and medical devices help make people’s lives easier. They lower cholesterol, help people with chronic conditions extend their quality of life, and in some instances even save lives. As diverse as these treatments are, they all share one thing in common; at one point they were all part of a clinical trial.
“Clinical research is integral to providing the newest technology and evidence-based medicine to our patients,” cardiologist and electrophysiology medical director Michele Murphy Cook, M.D. said. “By doing so, this also improves access to care and our patients’ confidence.”
Today at Kootenai Health, more than 400 patients are participating in clinical trials. Some are for new medications, some are for new medical devices, and others are known as registry trials. Registry trials collect data on patients so researchers can learn more about a given medical condition. They are about watching and learning rather than offering a new treatment, but they are still very important.
“Any member of the medical staff at Kootenai Health can apply to participate in a clinical trial,” Shamela Barnett, certified clinical research coordinator and manager of clinical research at Kootenai Health said. “Currently, we have clinical trials underway in cardiology, oncology, infectious disease, and we recently added one for multiple sclerosis.”
“The main goal of clinical research is to drive quality health care,” Elizabeth Brewer, MEd, director of research and care transformation at Kootenai Health said. “Our goal at Kootenai Health is to integrate the things we are learning from research into all aspects of our work. That goes beyond what we are learning in any given study and includes the way research teaches us to approach patient care. That includes rigorous data evaluation, greater patient oversight, and ensuring the patient and members of their care team are working very closely together for the best outcomes.”
All research is aimed at giving patients the best opportunity for the best outcome. While this can mean a direct benefit to the patients involved in a clinical trial, it often means something more.
“Clinical research is altruistic,” said Shamela. “Sometimes patients, especially oncology patients, see a direct benefit. Many times the information learned in a clinical trial benefits the next generation. As an organization, clinical trials offer the best opportunity for us to bring cutting-edge care and the newest medications to people in our community.”
For these patients, there can be an additional benefit.
“Participating in a clinical trial connects our patients with an amazing clinical research team,” said Elizabeth. “We have incredible, knowledgeable research staff who work with patients’ physicians as one connected team to ensure they are getting the care needed while on the trial. This adds an extra layer of support for our patients and another champion for their success.”
For those interested in being considered as a participant in a clinical trial, their first step is typically a conversation with their physician. Most clinical trials want to include patients who meet very specific criteria. These vary widely depending on the trial. While they are not open to everyone, for those who can participate, having the trial available in our community is important.
“There are times people may not have another option,” Elizabeth said. “We’ve had patients tell us that being in the clinical trial saved their life.”
Contact the Clinical Research team at Kootenai Health at [email protected]. For a database of clinical studies conducted around the world visit clinicaltrials.gov.