While the coronavirus pandemic pushed people indoors and kept them apart, it also helped podcast production and consumption blossom, as people pursued online medical education during their downtime from clinical obligations while they sheltered at home.
Explore This IssueJanuary 2021
Podcasts—audio programs that are easily accessible on a smartphone or through a tablet or laptop—were a popular format before this year, but COVID-19 created a greater need for online medical education resources and helped transform them from simply another type of media to a lot more.
Podcasts exist both on established platforms and on private websites, said Ronit Malka, MD, a second-year resident at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and a resident editor of Headmirror.com’s ENT in a Nutshell podcast. “While we usually think of podcasts as being hosted on platforms like Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, some are privately hosted or are even sold as audio features,” she said. “Somewhat unsurprisingly, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, lots more listeners have tuned in, and more podcasts have been developed.”
“With COVID-19, we’re no longer meeting in auditoriums or even small meeting rooms for lectures, and people are looking for ways to reach medical students and residents. A podcast is always accessible,” said Jason Barnes, MD, a fourth-year resident of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a resident section editor for ENT in a Nutshell. “They’re repeatable and easy to use. You can put headphones in and listen on the subway, in a car, walking from the parking garage, or when you’re on the treadmill. You can also listen again if it didn’t sink in the first time. Video lectures are also helpful, but they require a different type of attention and a different platform.”
There are more than 20 otolaryngology podcasts available as of press time, all covering a range of clinical and professional topics, and some are now considered essential otolaryngology tools.
“The whole concept of remote learning and asynchronous learning has also really blossomed from being a supplemental nicety to an educational necessity, and this has supported podcast-based learning a lot,” said Dr. Malka, who is also the lead author of an in-depth review of medical podcasts across all specialties, comparing a number of quantitative metrics between podcasts in otolaryngology and those in other specialties.
Medical Podcast History
Podcast technology first appeared in the early 2000s, though the big boom in availability has occurred over the last five to seven years, Dr. Malka noted. “Broadly across all medical sub-specialties, podcast-based learning has had an exponential rise over the last few years, and otolaryngology has been no exception.”