In our last post, we explored some of the limitations of traditional clinical trial designs, especially when applied to precision medicine. In recent years, a new contestant has stepped into the fray: the N-of-1 trial.
Most clinical trials go like this: you take a group of people with some condition, say lower back pain, and you randomly assign each of those people to one of two (or more) treatment groups. For the purposes of illustration, let’s say there are three: group 1 receives a new experimental painkiller; group 2 receives an older, more established painkiller; group 3 receives placebo. No one – not the researcher, not the patients – knows who is in which group until the end of the study.
Technology development requires experimentation and the ability to learn from failure. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t translate naturally into healthcare, where costs are high and lives are on the line. Even in Silicon Valley, an environment of barely-controlled chaos where new companies and technologies emerge daily, the terrain between health technology development and clinical practice remains difficult to navigate.
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