Almost a year ago, I posted an entry on the topic of podcasting in health care (Podcasting in Healthcare – Is there a future?) and then followed it up with a quick search of podcasts available on Apple’s iTunes music store (Podcasting in Health – A look at Apple iTunes v4.9 for health podcasts). I have been surprised by the level of interest in this topic. Maybe it’s time to revisit the topic now that a year has passed.
A recent survey suggested that “the iPod (and similar portable devices) has become a pop culture phenomenon, rapidly becoming a dynamic force in the way that music (and other content) is being purchased and consumed” (from iPodobserver article: Survey Finds: ‘Podcasting is emerging as a viable content medium’). While not conclusive, these results could be interpreted as a shift in the way in which people access content. I’ll concede that the availability of podcasts is making content more “portable” and convenient to access. But, I really question the notion that *everyone* is hip to this idea. I can’t seem to find the article, but I recall reading about only a portion of society even being aware of the term “podcast”. On the other hand, media types must be drooling at characteristics of podcast listeners: influential, educated, and mobile (article can be found here). These listeners probably have higher socio-economic status (i.e., have more money) and disposable income. In any case, I agree that podcasting is here to stay – maybe not in its current format, but in concept.
Okay, so let’s take a look at what’s available on the iTunes Music store (you need to access the store using Apple’s freely available iTunes software) . Today is May 15, 2006 and I just ran a search of podcasts using a variety of different just like last year. Here are the results:
The number of podcasts (podcasts are usually a series of “episodes”) is up since last year. For “health”, “medicine”, and “healthcare”, there was considerable overlap between the three searches (sorry, but I didn’t look any deeper into this). For the “doctor” search, a considerable number (almost half) were NOT health related – I suspect that the term “doctor” is now starting to be usurped by other fields (mostly as in someone who can fix something). The 105 entries for “cancer” and “patient” also showed some overlap. What is going on with the ehealth/health informatics people? Only two new podcasts in a year?
I was surprised that the vast majority of podcasts seem to be produced by and directed at health care professionals. The most common type of podcast seemed to be lectures or other similar educational vehicles. When I think about the topic some more, maybe these results shouldn’t be too surprising. Organizations would have the infrastructure to support on-going podcasts – although Apple’s work is making it easier for individuals to publish their own content.
Okay, so have my views and opinions on podcasting in healthcare changed since last year? Perhaps a little bit. I still believe that there is a role for podcasting, mostly in terms of education and knowledge translation activities. But, I still think the focus is still too health professional centric. Someone made a comment that patients would be interested in listening to health professionals explain and “educate” on a variety of health topics. I can see this happening, but from the podcasts that I was able to view quickly and/or listen, most of the podcasts seem to be direct recordings of lectures or rounds or something else. I wasn’t able to identify any content that was specifically designed as a podcast that took advantage of the characteristics of the Internet. We still seem to be using podcasts as a substitute for a tape or CD.
I’ll be honest. I’m somewhat biased against podcasts. Over the past year, I have tried to listen to a variety of podcasts (entertainment, golf, health, etc) totaling almost 10. My experience has been … mixed. I’m very appreciative that the podcasts are available on the Internet (well – mostly via iTunes) so that I can catch-up on missed information (for example a lecture or other public speaking event). I also like that I can listen to the podcast at my convenience, mostly at a time of my choosing, but also in a location of my choosing because of MP3 players and portable computers. But, while listening to the podcasts, I found myself distracted and wishing that the pace would quicken (probably because I prefer reading to listening). Even when I tried to stay focused to listening to the podcast, I just felt weird sitting in front of the computer and just “listening” without doing anything else. In many ways, I felt like I was listening to the radio. Who just sits and listens to the radio. Radio seems to have become background noise of the 21st century and helping to set a “mood”. Some colleagues of mine rave about podcasts because they say listening passes the time during their commute to and from work. I can see how a podcast would be very convenient here. As you can see, my experience is mixed.
So, what does the future hold for podcasting in healthcare? I’m not sure. Some will probably think podcasting is wonderful because it frees them from having to read or allows them to make use of traveling time to learn something new. Others may find podcasting less efficient and convenient than reading because (at this point in time) searching and scanning audio is not as efficient as with text. Like I commented last year, podcasting in healthcare probably has a role, but will not be for everyone. I’m curious to see if things change in a year.