Our Work in Comparative Effectiveness Research

For many health professionals, comparative effectiveness research (CER) represents a whole new way to perform a study. Here’s how the Institute is bringing this fresh approach to the integrative health field.

Professional Training

Integrative health professionals and researchers around the world are learning how to conduct CER studies through the Institute’s international research methods training program. Led by Institute Scholar and CER expert Claudia Witt, a module of this intensive course is dedicated to CER. Participants come away able to conduct their own pragmatic trials.

Guidelines for CER Studies

Institute Scholar Claudia Witt led the development of two effectiveness guidance documents (EGD). These sets of guidelines outline best practices and ensure uniformity in the way that integrative medicine researchers conduct comparative effectiveness studies of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. See the EGD for acupuncture research.


The Institute organized a series of forums, inviting a wide range of stakeholders—including patients, health professionals, policy makers, and payers—to explore CER’s potential and lay the foundation for applying it to integrative medicine.


Stakeholder Symposium on the Evidentiary Framework for Complementary and Integrative Medicine
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Partnering with the Center for Medical Technology Policy, the Institute brought together 45 experts and stakeholders in November 2009, to examine opportunities and obstacles in conducting rigorous, clinically useful studies in integrative medicine.

“I think this debate is happening throughout all the Western industrialized nations,” said symposium participant George Lewith, professor of health research at University of Southampton. “How do we get effective healthcare decision-making without having to investigate every little small element of treatment with a placebo controlled randomized trial?”

Read the whitepaper

View a round-table discussion



Comparative Effectiveness Research & Integrative Medicine Online Symposium 
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This virtual forum in April 2010, addressed three major areas:

Stakeholder needs:

  When making healthcare decisions, what information do we need?

 What outcomes matter to us and therefore should be measured?

 How can high-quality CER support the needs of all stakeholders?

Research Methods 

 If commonly used research methods don’t yield the information we need, what research designs can?

 If new methods are considered less ‘rigorous’ than existing ones, is it possible to achieve both rigor and relevance in clinical research?

 How can we balance the internal validity and the practical application of clinical research?


 What do we know about the cost-effectiveness of the complementary and integrative approach to healthcare?

 How can CER help us understand the potential of integrative medicine to lower the national healthcare bill?

 Can CER give complementary and integrative medicine a place in the coverage and reimbursement system? 

Read the discussion from this online event    User ID and password are both TIIHguest.




Interdisciplinary Consensus Workshop on the Development of an Effectiveness Guidance
Document for Acupuncture Research 
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This workshop in July 2011, jump-started the process of creating an effectiveness guidance document, a set of guidelines to steer the design of comparative effectiveness research studies on acupuncture. The outcome, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, took existing research design procedures into account and identified opportunities to integrate health economic analysis.

See the EGD for acupuncture research 


More about CER

View CER resources

Read frequently asked questions