Clinical research is aimed at experimenting different types of medical drugs and treatment methods to determine their efficacy and safety in treating patients. Medical care, on the other hand, is aimed primarily at utilizing existing methods of treatment and drugs approved by the medical community as safe to be used for individual patients according to their specific requirements.
Clinical research is focused on the study of why people have an illness and trying to discover novel means and methods to help treat such illnesses. Basic research performed in the labs is the starting point of clinical research. Illnesses and their causes are identified along with the available treatment material and methods. A new drug is identified to have potential in treating an illness better than existing drugs or a new treatment method is identified by lab researchers as having lesser side effects than an already existing method. In order to verify the actual potential of the new drug or treatment method, clinical trials are conducted on animals first and then on humans.
A clinical trial is a type of clinical research study. It involves the designing of a standardized experiment protocol that is to be followed by investigators to determine answers to specific questions regarding the new drug or method's efficacy and safety. Governmental agencies act as regulators and issue guidelines to be followed by all sponsors of clinical research studies. The protocol that is designed by the sponsor of the clinical research study will be applied to all patient volunteers who participate in the study. Patient volunteers are those who have given written consent to be a participant in the study or trial. During the period of the clinical research study, information relating to the study is considered as intellectual property and hence cannot be accessed by everyone in the general public. But once the trial/study is completed, information about the trial will be published in publicly accessible medical journals which can be accessed by the general public, including researchers and physicians who were not a part of the clinical research study.
In stark contrast, medical care refers to the medical care that an individual person may receive from their personal physician. The physician here develops a medical care plan that is specialized for that particular person. This plan can be adjusted by the physician based on any change in the person's requirement like visiting hours, or increase/decrease in drug dosage. This kind of changes is difficult to be implemented in a clinical research study because the protocol, plan there is fixed and cannot be changed according to one or two patient's wishes.
Another important difference between medical care and clinical research is in the medical care, proven and effective medical care treatment is provided to the patient, whereas in clinical research the treatment or drug administered to the patients is unknown with respect to its effects.
Funding for clinical research is done by private organizations, governmental organizations, and drug developers. Since medical care is individual it is funded individual patients and the health plans they possess.
Medical care is aimed at improving the health condition of an individual, while clinical research is aimed at discovering if new methods can improve the health of patients with certain conditions in the future.
In medical care, the products used for treatment are publicly known and accepted as a safe and proven treatment method. Also, in medical care, the details of an individual patient's records are not publicly revealed.
Medical care received during the clinical trial differs from the medical care received on an individual basis. This difference is not related to the quality of medical care since at both places quality medical care is the objective of the concerned parties. The difference is the health plan designs and in the outcomes of the medical care in a clinical trial on one hand and the individual medical on the other hand.
Thus, despite both terms being used interchangeably by patients sometimes,clinical research and medical care do differ in many ways.