Background

Podcasts and other digital resources are increasingly popular among medical learners and allow the dissemination of research to larger audiences. Little is known about the feasibility of graduate medical education trainees developing podcasts for their own and others' learning.

Objective

We described the development and implementation of a medical education podcast series by residents for obstetrics and gynecology (Ob-Gyn) resident learning, and demonstrated feasibility, sustainability, and acceptance of this series.

Methods

We used the Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology (CREOG) educational guidelines to create a weekly study podcast for Ob-Gyn residents over 10 months. Costs and donations (for feasibility), downloads over time (for sustainability), and number of reviews on Apple iTunes and followers on Twitter (for acceptability) were measured.

Results

Sixty episodes were released from September 30, 2018, to July 28, 2019 (43 weeks). Initial costs included $3,150 startup and $29 monthly. Online donations through Patreon amounted to $200 a month, which covered 58% of startup costs at 10 months and are projected to cover full costs by 1.5 years. The podcast had 173 995 downloads as recorded through Podbean (39 a month in September, increased to 31 206 a month in July). It gained 644 followers on Twitter and 147 ratings on iTunes, with an average of 4.86 out of 5 stars.

Conclusions

Medical podcasts created by Ob-Gyn residents during their training appear feasible and highly acceptable over a sustained period.

Medical trainees have traditionally relied on textbooks, classroom teaching, and review questions to acquire medical knowledge. More recently, online blogs, social media websites, and podcasts have become popular among trainees through the Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAM) movement.1,2  These digital resources are increasingly used within, or as supplements to, formal medical education curricula.39 

Prior literature demonstrated that learners may prefer podcasts, as they allow asynchronous engagement, which can reduce stress and anxiety and provide accessibility to learners with different studying habits and learning styles.10,11  Other studies demonstrated podcast learning increased student and resident knowledge and engagement compared with traditional text-based learning.1215  While there are multiple podcasts available in other disciplines, there are currently few podcasts specific to obstetrics and gynecology (Ob-Gyn) residents.1,3,6,13,14  This report aims to describe the development of “CREOGs Over Coffee,” an Ob-Gyn medical education podcast by Ob-Gyn residents, and demonstrate its feasibility, sustainability, and acceptance.

The podcast was created at a large, urban, academic medical center with 32 Ob-Gyn residents. Two postgraduate year 3 (PGY-3) residents created the podcast during their own time. Podcast content was based on the Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology (CREOG) educational objectives, which are the main drivers of Ob-Gyn resident curricula (provided as online supplemental material).16  Podcast recording was performed in a single take, capturing a conversation between the cohosts, or the hosts and an invited subspecialist guest from our program. The hosts took turns interviewing each other or the guests.

Each podcast episode was reviewed by a board-certified Ob-Gyn or subspecialist, depending on the topic. The identified audience for the podcast was Ob-Gyn residents. The goal of each podcast was to cover a specific Ob-Gyn topic in 10 to 20 minutes. This length of time was chosen to keep listeners engaged and to allow for the podcast to fit into busy lifestyles.

We disseminated the podcast through public hosting via Podbean (http://www.podbean.com), which allowed for synchronous upload to “podcatchers,” which are standard podcast-hosting applications such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listeners accessed episodes on podcatchers by searching for CREOGs Over Coffee or via http://www.creogsovercoffee.com. Refer to the online supplemental material for more details on the podcast implementation framework.

Feasibility markers were measured by the ability to produce weekly podcasts and offset costs through Patreon (http://www.patreon.com) online donations. Sustainability was assessed through Podbean podcast downloads, allowing for tracking of geographic distribution of downloads and number of downloads per episode and month. Podbean did not allow for tracking of download retention, defined as the same user downloading multiple episodes, or repeat downloads, defined as the same user downloading the same episode multiple times. Acceptance was measured by the number of reviews publicly seen on Apple podcasts and the number of followers on Twitter.

This study was declared exempt from review by the Women and Infants Hospital Institutional Review Board, as no human subjects were involved.

Feasibility

We released 60 episodes of the podcast from September 30, 2018, to July 28, 2019, a period of 43 weeks, exceeding our parameter of 1 podcast episode per week. Episodes ranged from 10 to 30 minutes in length. Each episode, from research to publication, took approximately 3 to 4 hours for completion (breakdown provided as online supplemental material). Most podcast episodes involved the 2 PGY-3 hosts as well as their board-certified Ob-Gyn reviewer, and a few podcasts also involved a subspecialty board-certified guest.

Initial startup costs amounted to $3,180, with maintenance costs of $29 per month (table). After 10 months, 58% of these costs were offset by monthly Patreon crowdfunding (15 patrons; $200 per month income). If current funding trends continue, we anticipate that all costs will be fully covered approximately 1.5 years from startup.

table

Podcast Expenses

Podcast Expenses
Podcast Expenses

Sustainability

The podcast generated 173 995 downloads with listeners from more than 100 different countries, all 50 states in the United States, and 11 of Canada's provinces and territories. The United States (161 205; 93%), Canada (3475; 2%), and Australia (1504; 0.9%) had the most downloads per country. California (13 216; 8%), New York (12 444; 8%), and Texas (11 068; 77%) had the most downloads per state. Downloads increased from 39 per month in September to 31 206 per month in July, with demonstrated sustainability over time (figure).

figure

Podcast Download Numbers by Month (September 2018–July 2019)

figure

Podcast Download Numbers by Month (September 2018–July 2019)

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Acceptance

Acceptance was assessed through publicly viewable Apple iTunes ratings and reviews, and through the number of Twitter followers. On Apple iTunes, the podcast received 147 ratings, with an average of 4.86 stars (one 3-star, three 4-star, and one hundred forty 5-star ratings). Not all those who rated the podcast left reviews. On Twitter, the podcast has 1183 followers (as of April 15, 2020). All reviews from September 2018 to July 2019 are included as online supplemental material.

To our knowledge, this is the first report regarding the feasibility of development of an Ob-Gyn medical education podcast by residents. We demonstrated that a weekly medical education podcast focused on CREOG guidelines was feasible, sustained over 10 months, and acceptable to an international audience.

Our findings support the existing literature with regard to learners' interest for accessible, digestible learning material.1,3,717  Emergency medicine, in particular, has led the charge in FOAM,3,14,16,17  and we demonstrate there is an interest for this in Ob-Gyn. Our findings also support the larger role that social media now plays in disseminating medical knowledge. A study of emergency medicine residents showed that almost 98% used some sort of social media for learning at least 1 hour per week.17 

While podcasts and other FOAM learning tools seem to be readily accepted by learners, the literature is sparse on their effectiveness versus traditional forms of learning. One systematic review looking at multiple FOAM mediums (including blogs, Twitter, and podcasts) showed that in general, FOAM interventions did not improve knowledge, and participants using FOAM had equivalent test scores compared with those who did not use FOAM.18  One study reported higher knowledge scores on postintervention tests, but it did not compare participants' scores with those from nonintervention groups.19  However, these studies may suggest that FOAM is not inferior to traditional forms of medical education while being accessible and enjoyable for learners.

Limitations of this study include an inability to assess acceptability from all listeners. Only a limited number of listeners gave ratings and reviews or followed our Twitter account. Those listeners who responded may have been biased toward more favorable opinions about the podcasts. We were also unable to use established implantation design frameworks, such as PRECEDE, due to the difficulty of assessing impact from a podcast that is widely disseminated.20  While the target audience of the podcast was PGY-1 to PGY-4 Ob-Gyn residents, specific download data were not available; thus, we do not know if we reached our target audience. Generalizability of the podcasts' usefulness for other disciplines or health professions is also unknown. Whether listeners learned from the podcasts also was not assessed.

We aim to continue the podcast after residency and to update the website with new materials. Our next steps include a survey for our residency program to assess resident learning and attitudes after listening to our podcast.

A resident-created Ob-Gyn weekly podcast based on CREOG guidelines, with faculty expert review of content, was feasible over a 10-month period. The podcasts appeared highly acceptable and were downloaded nearly 175,000 times by individuals from 100 countries and all 50 states.

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Author notes

Editor's Note: The online version of this article contains CREOG learning objectives, the podcast implementation framework, and Apple Podcast reviews.

Funding: The authors report no external funding source for this study.

Competing Interests

Conflict of interest: The authors declare they have no competing interests.

The authors would like to thank Dr Beth Cronin for her contributions in reviewing the podcast content and material.

Supplementary data