The Evidence Mosaic: Looking at the bigger picture
We at Heel have developed an approach that is centered around building ‘Evidence Mosaics’ for our products.
Because we know that every research method has its own strengths and limitations, we look at the evidence from several different kinds of medical research and combine it to give us the bigger picture on an issue.
By looking at questions from many different angles, we get an evidence base that is more than just the sum of its parts.
Basic research is done in the laboratory with the aim of advancing knowledge on new products or gathering further information on existing products. It can constitute both the starting or the endpoint of an Evidence Mosaic. It can be a starting point because, like in conventional medicine, the results of basic research often are the foundation for the development of new medications. It can also be an endpoint when it is used find out more about how therapeutic effects of our medications are obtained. By conducting basic research we want to learn more about the mode of action of a homeopathic preparation that has already helped millions of patients.
Observational studies take information found in “real life” situations and draw conclusions from what they find there. They give a better picture of what happens under everyday conditions in a doctor’s practice than clinical trials. So if we want to know how effective a homeopathic medication is in the context of routine clinical practice, this is best investigated in an observational study. Such studies are also particularly useful to demonstrate if a product is safe and well-tolerated by patients. The relative safety of homeopathic products is one of the reasons why homeopathy is attractive for patients.
To further investigate the specific effects of homeopathic medicines according to high scientific standards, it is tested on patients in what is called a “clinical trial”. There are different types of clinical trials, and one of these is the Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) which distributes treatments to patients ‘at random’ with the aim of getting an unbiased comparison between two or more treatments. One of the main strengths of RCTs is that they are one of the best ways to compare a homeopathic treatment with a conventional or other reference treatment.
A review first identifies all the literature on a certain topic. Then it selects and analyzes the available evidence before coming to a conclusion based on the results of the available evidence. There are different types of reviews: they can focus only on one type of study, for instance on randomized clinical trials, but they can also combine the evidence of different types of studies. The latter is particularly important in the Evidence Mosaic approach because it includes data from different types of study designs (i.e. basic research, observational studies and clinical trials). Reviews are generally seen as the highest level of medical evidence because they try to aggregate and synthesize all the available scientific data.