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Giving people what they want

Want to know which treatments work best? Try asking patients

If you wanted to study the effectiveness of epidural pain relief during labour, asking mothers how well it worked might seem logical. Yet the last major review of nine studies in this area found that only two of them asked patients about the experience.

Traditionally, research has relied on applying professional expertise to complex problems, and thus contributing to the holy grail of evidence-based medicine. But now the value of “patient and public involvement” (PPI) is becoming clear. Research into osteoarthritis of the knee, for example, was for decades dominated by trials of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (aspirin-like drugs). This changed…

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