The BEAM project – Bringing Evidence to Alternative Medicine

There are many non-drug treatments available today that have the potential to improve healthcare. These have been sometimes described in the research literature as ‘alternative medicine’. Integrative medicine is a patient-cantered approach to healthcare that includes many of these so-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies.

A valid concern about these kinds of treatments is that in many cases, there is not enough evidence that they are safe and effective. Modern medicine is based on evidence-based medicine, in which randomized controlled trials are considered the gold standard. But there is growing awareness of the limits of RCTs, and the value of data that comes from different kinds of sources. One of these is called outcomes research, including self-reported outcomes. This is data that we get from patients themselves.

The BEAM project was established to develop mobile tools for collecting data. These will allow CAM providers to document exactly what they do during their interactions with patients, including details of specific procedures and prescriptions. It will also allow patients to track their symptoms and their activity to tell us what happens to them over time.

These kinds of mobile tools have great potential to improve clinical research, but nowhere is this more exciting than in the realm of integrative medicine. By engaging patients and providers with a platform that makes data collection an essential part of their regular interactions, we hope that BEAM will shine the light of evidence on the murky world of alternative medicine.

Our efforts to develop tools for measuring outcomes have been aligned with an ongoing software development project. This has become the BEAM project, which is the basis for a focused program of research at Seekers. We want to know how well we are doing, and we want to measure everything as we strive to get better. We trust that there are many other CAM providers who feel the same way, and we are developing BEAM for them.

We will be recruiting development partners to help us develop and deploy these tools in targeted provider and patient communities.