National Cancer Institute
Cancer Control & Population Sciences Home - NCI's Bridge to Public Health Research, Practice and Policy

Overview of Comparative Effectiveness Research

Definition of CER

Comparative effectiveness research is the conduct and synthesis of research comparing the benefits and harms of different interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat and monitor health conditions in “real world” settings. The purpose of this research is to improve health outcomes by developing and disseminating evidence-based information to patients, clinicians, and other decision-makers, responding to their expressed needs, about which interventions are most effective for which patients under specific circumstances.

  • To provide this information, comparative effectiveness research must assess a comprehensive array of health-related outcomes for diverse patient populations and subgroups.
  • Defined interventions compared may include medications, procedures, medical and assistive devices and technologies, diagnostic testing, behavioral change, and delivery system strategies.
  • This research necessitates the development, expansion, and use of a variety of data sources and methods to assess comparative effectiveness and actively disseminate the results.

The definition above is not meant to exclude randomized trials; however, these trials would need comparator arms other than placebo and be representative of populations seen in “real world” practice.

Types of CER

Types of CER investments and activities can be grouped into four major categories:

  • Research (e.g., comparing medicines for a specific condition or discharge process A to discharge process B for readmissions)
  • Human and Scientific Capital (e.g., training new researchers to conduct CER, developing CER methodology)
  • CER Data Infrastructure (e.g., developing a distributed practice-based data network, longitudinal linked administrative or Electronic Health Record (EHR) databases, or patient registries)
  • Dissemination and Translation of CER (e.g., building tools and methods to disseminate CER findings to clinicians and patients and translate CER into practice)

Taken from the Federal Coordinating Council for CER’s Report to the President Congress.

Last Updated: November 1, 2011
NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health
National Cancer Institute U.S. National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute