There has been a lot of interest in the meaningful use debate surrounding electronic medical records (EMRs) of late, but I read a post by @TedEytan that got me thinking about a different kind of ‘meaningful use’. The topic of his post was the differences between mHealth and eHealth, but what really caught my eye was the coined term “Internet’s Informant General” (to describe @SusannahFox of Pew Internet). I had not come across the term before and I found it very striking. I have recently been working on a project involving panels of key informants representing their respective countries and the idea of this combined with a ‘representative virtual office’ like Internet Informant General was oddly compelling for some reason….much more than another in a line of czars (little ‘c’). The fact that this office was faux filled by someone on the strength of their research (and ability to communicate/disseminate it) made it even more interesting as an idea.
Despite being a very competitive process, there are still volumes upon volumes of research published, which vary in quality and utility. I think it is interesting to see when research transcends limited utility to help affect and drive other research and policy. This is when ‘meaningful use’ of someone’s work can be said to occur (versus when it can only be harnessed by a handful of specialists who can comprehend it). Don’t get me wrong, that type of work can be very significant as well – it simply requires a different type of translational process. However, the efforts of the folks at Pew Research Center on the Internet and American Life Project is reminiscent of the early survey work of David Eisenberg on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Eisenberg’s survey paper was largely responsible for creating an awareness about CAM among healthcare professionals and spurring on unprecedented research in the area (and was possibly contributory to the cottage industry surrounding it). This, too, was research that could be measured by the meaningful use of its findings to affect and drive work in healthcare.
Overall, it’s just very satisfying to see any type of research that ends up with this type of meaningful use. Sometimes in the midst of the seemingly Herculean effort that it takes to get research funded, or navigated through approval boards, or even just written up – it is easy to forget how a study or a body of work can make such a direct and meaningful contribution. Cue the old NBC music for...
[Note: I didn’t really mean for the post to end up like this, but what can I say…I can’t quite shake some measure of being an idealist]