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JAMA Launches Podcast App: What’s the future of medical education?

14Feb18

JAMA podcasts

The Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, is launching a podcast app designed to help doctors to listen to educational content and take quizzes on what they learn.

By listening to these podcasts and taking the accompanying quizzes, medical professionals could earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits, which are needed for licensing requirements.

JAMA is advertising podcasts as a way for busy people to earn these credits: “Morning time. Commute time. Lunchtime. Workout time. Your time.”

Potentially this app will work on one of podcasting’s biggest strengths as an educational tool, allowing listeners to multitask and learn on the go. And, by incorporating quizzes the app may compensate for one of its weaknesses — the ease with which one can space out and miss important details from a piece of audio.

Likely the popularity of this tool will depend on the quality of the podcasts produced. I’ve heard a fair share of medical podcasts where people just read out articles and listing facts in monotone voices. However, the most widely shared and popular learning tool when I was a medical student was Dr. Goljan’s audio lecture series. (I’d wager Goljan has had more impact on medical education than any other doctor in his generation.)

A successful podcast, that can hold a tired person’s attention as they work out or commute will require an effective host like Goljan that can use some humour and flair to regain listener’s attention before key points and transitions and make points stick in their mind.

 

I strongly believe that the university system and medical education are sorely outdated. At hundreds of schools across the nation, similar lectures are given year after year, often by professors only lecturing out of an obligation to their department. The majority of schools now record these lectures, and at many schools, the majority of students, don’t attend class, they just watch the lectures so they can pause, repeat, slow down or speed up the content.

It’s time we decide these subjects are important enough that we devote the resources to make high-quality courses that can be shared between schools and across the world. Courses that not only incorporate the experience of top medical lecturers but also storytellers and documentarians. They should be founded in psychological theory, and variants could be tested using A-B testing and quizzing to optimize medical education. They should be accompanied by a comment section where the top questions and resources could be posted, voted upon, discussed.

Unfortunately, medical education, especially pre-clinical education, is often an after-thought — an obligation, not a priority. Schools are unlikely to take on a project like this, but perhaps a new generation of supplementary educational materials, like Goljan’s lectures, or the Pathoma video series could emerge — if they did, whoever made them would do the world a lot of good and make a lot of money off of the tens of thousands of allied health students looking for any advantage on their high-stakes exams.

 

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