A different kind of meaningful use

 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]


Red Bull and Slow Cow – A Tale of Two Beverages

We just published an article titled “Effects of commercial energy drink consumption on athletic performance and body composition” in the April issue of The Physician and Sportsmedicine (@PhysSportsMed).  I collaborated with two other faculty members at my university on this review of energy drink literature.  We focused primarily on the effects of energy drinks (e.g. Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star, etc.) on weight loss and athletic performance enhancement.  However, we also provided a look ahead to the antithesis of the energy drink – the aptly titled anti-energy drink.  There are a number of products in this emerging market as well (e.g., Slow Cow, Drank, Malava Novocaine).  Slow Cow, in particular, seems to play off of the name of energy drink leader Red Bull – but its creator maintained he was otherwise inspired for the name. 

 It was an interesting review to work on and represents a natural progression from a previous safety-focused article on this topic.


Crop Rotation for the Brain

If you have half a dozen journal manuscripts in the pipeline, why would you stop working on them to write something more leisurely?  It seems pretty counter-intuitive at first glance…and successive glances.  Finishing any of those manuscripts will clearly advance towards a goal.  Leisure writing, such as a blog, will not.  Isn’t it a waste of time better spent?  These are the issues raised and questions put to me about blogging by some of my colleagues.

Perhaps the benefit of a different type of writing and pursuit will actually yield a net increase in productivity.  This approach is not unlike using crop rotation in farming to enhance fertility and avoid depletion of essential nutrients.  The crop rotation method has even been explored with antibiotics in medicine as a way to combat resistance in the ICU [1].  One could postulate that by reactivating ignored areas of your mind, challenging yourself in different ways and (ideally) allowing for reflection, you may enable yourself to organically find a solution or develop a new idea that focused brainstorming may not have produced. 

These ideas are not novel in any way and there is some tenuously connected, but fascinating, research about things like cognitive control and task switching…but I digress.  The bottom line is that reading about the possible benefit of crop rotation for the brain and putting it into practice with deadlines hanging over your head are two different things.  Forced relaxation is a tall order.   We shall see.


[1] Niederman MS. Is “crop rotation” of antibiotics the solution to a “resistant” problem in the ICU? Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1997;156(4 Pt 1):1029-31