Podcasting in Healthcare – Revisited 2006

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:

Keywords Hits

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.







5 responses to “Podcasting in Healthcare – Revisited 2006”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    “So, what does the future hold for podcasting in healthcare? I’m not sure…. Like I commented last year, podcasting in healthcare probably has a role, but will not be for everyone.”

    I have to say, I disagree on two (2) counts. Firstly, a podcast can make information more accessible to those who might have difficulties accessing information online. Not all websites are ‘accessible’ and not all are W3 / WAI compliant. A podcast could have the potential to disseminate information in a more successful way (for visually impaired users) if accessibility online isn’t overwhelmingly possible.(*with transcripts for hearing impaired)

    Secondly, with all the buzz around re consumer driven health etc / ratings comparisons etc , a podcast could have the potential to add wider,perhaps more
    ‘qualitative’ based subjective based feedback to info about different providers.An interesting contrast to overwhelmingly black and white text or tabular presentation.

    The main question I have though about podcasts being used in a healthcare setting though is how you judge quality control or whether it adheres to a set of ethical guidelines? Do the same set of guidelines apply to a 5min podcast as they do to a website which is not ‘time regulated’ and where it is possible to read in depth info about ethical guidelines etc on FAQ pages? Seems like a black hole to me. You could always add a disclaimer to the top of the podcast , ie ‘we subscribe to the x principles’ and refer listeners back to the faq page on the website for more information ; but the caveat to this is that by their nature, podcasts are often standalone products accessed via itunes and the like – ie, listeners may not be aware of the existance of a website containing ethical guidelines or may not be bothered to look further.
    In which case, maybe it’s a moot point, but perhaps information given in a podcast falls outside the remit of ethical guidelines developed for other online based initiatives precisely because of the nature of its format? . Otherwise, what is to stop me setting up a podcast promoting the sale of , I don’t know , snake oil as a remedy for Cancer?
    The Honcode uses the term ‘website’ so semantically speaking do these same principles apply to a different format, albeit one accessed online and one which does not have to be accessed from a website itself (ie may be accessed via a 3rd party provider like itunes?)
    I don’t know. How would you go about this.Revise honcode to encompass different formats or …?


  2. The Krafty Librarian Avatar
    The Krafty Librarian

    There is a definite interest in health/medical podcasts. However, there are some still some hurdles we must overcome before they become mainstream. The biggest hurdle is currently there is no decent search engine for medical/health podcasts. You alluded to this when you looked at the number of hits you got with various keywords. Simply put it is too time consuming for the average person (consumer or doctor)to sift through and separate the wheat from the chaff of podcasts. General browsing through subjects in podcast directories like iTunes is equally frustrating. For example, The New England Journal of Medicine is listed not in the Health category but the Science. Until there is a decent search engine or database that contains standardized authorative information on these programs you are going to find it difficult for people to fully adopt the technology when they can’t find the programs. Think of it as having a cable television and having no t.v. guide to tell you when or what programs are on.

    Despite this major problem there are still quite a few podcasts where the primary audience is the general public. According to my list of medical/health podcasts at http://www.kraftweb.net/kl/podcasts2.doc (listing 52 medical/health podcasts) there are approximately 16 of which where the general public would be considered one of the targeted audiences. That is greater than 25% of the podcasts that I have found and I was extremely selective in choosing public health podcasts. I refused to include any public health podcast that did not give basic information on the producing entity. Some very good podcasts aimed specifically at patients are: American Heart Association Podcasts, Arizona Cancer Center’s Cancer and Healthcare Update, Blood CancerCAST, CVMD.org, Health Edge, and Johns Hopkins Medical Podcasts. is too time consuming for the average person (consumer or doctor) to sift through and separate the wheat from the chaff

  3. Nancy G Avatar
    Nancy G

    Hi Hans and others,

    As a student of eHealth and a working mom I find medical and biomedical podcasts to be amazing and time effective learning while I’m moving. I listen to consumer-oriented medical/scientific podcasts (esp. Converstions Network – tech and biotech nation), as well as those on faith&reason (PBS – Bill Moyer), for qualitative points of view on the ethical and social impacts of science and medicine. Usually the interviewees are well respected academics, scientists, physicians, authors and business people with interesting and novel points of view. I find this is a great accompaniement to exercise (running usually) and I look forward to each session, and download. So, there’s the consumer perspective.

    Thanks Krafty, for a great list!

  4. Sally Avatar

    Hi Hans,

    I came across this article a few days ago.
    I am in Perth, Western Australia and planning on rolling out various podcasts for different areas of our Health Service. They will include Diabetes II Education and another on supporting youth sexual health issues.
    It was refreshing to see another Health Agency utilising iPods and it has helped me to convince my health Executive team that run one of the Hospitals in perth to get started on our own. Clarian launches “HealthPod,” a new patient support program that uses iPod technology for bariatric surgery patients
    Kind regards,


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