In a study evaluating the effectiveness of a drug designed to control heart rate, monitoring a subject’s pulse over a period of time will undoubtedly answer the primary question: Is the drug effective at controlling the patient’s heart rate?
While the answer to that primary question may be yes, researchers must consider what else happened while the patient was being treated with the drug. Perhaps the subject’s heart rate was well controlled, but the subject became more sedentary and less active. Or perhaps the subject experienced increased restlessness during sleep. The heart rate might be controlled, but that doesn’t mean the treatment is successful. Without the surrounding contextual data, comprehension of a subject’s response to treatment is incomplete.
As the U.S. healthcare system becomes increasingly outcomes-based and accountable, evaluating therapeutic efficacy requires researchers to consider the bigger picture of a subject’s health.