HealthNovember 11, 2021

Understanding the growing appeal of podcasts among healthcare practitioners

Learn why HCPs are increasingly tuning into podcasts and why marketers should leverage a growing platform.

Like most consumers in the digital age, today’s healthcare practitioners are open to nontraditional forms of content consumption and learning. That’s why healthcare-focused podcasts—downloadable audio files that are part of dedicated series, each with its own scope and topics of focus—are growing in popularity as supplements to traditional learning in the field.

Beyond medical students and residents, appeal for these podcasts is also strong among post-training, specialist, and advanced practitioners. In 2019, Kantar Media found that 75% of healthcare professionals across disciplines use their smartphones to listen to podcasts. A 2020 study identified thousands of active podcast episodes across 19 disciplines, including family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, and others.

As HCPs’ naturally transition to alternative, digitally accessible resources like podcasts, industry analysts are only beginning to appreciate their impact on industry learning, practice, and the social connections that bind HCPs together. Here we explore the evolving appeal of podcasts across HCPs.

Why are HCPs “tuning in” to podcasts?

Podcasts are popular among HCPs in part because they fill unique gaps in their conflicting personal and professional lives. For example, podcasts may not provide the rigorous content one might find in a journal or CME course; however, they do provide access to timely, digestible content in contexts where such materials were previously inaccessible.

Indeed, qualitative feedback from doctors in a study published by Academic Medicine shows that podcasts provided them with “broad exposure to core content and personalized learning, concurrently fostering their sense of connection to local and national professional communities.” Here is a closer look at how three factors—convenience, personalized learning, and community—contribute to that success.


As a medium, podcasts represent the most flexible and portable format for educational healthcare content in the field’s history. Podcasts can be paused and played at liberty. They can be accessed on mobile devices and shared with peers online, and they can be absorbed during workouts or on commutes. “The threshold to maintain the energy to actively listen is much lower than the energy required to be doing the research,” as one doctor describes in Academic Medicine.

Personalized learning

Podcasts also appeal to practitioners because they enable them to personalize their content experiences. HCPs use podcasts as a means of introducing them to any new topics, approaches, and techniques they choose. This includes resources from international experts that might otherwise be inaccessible. This “low-stress” and “less intimidating” atmosphere helps facilitate a mindset of personalized exposure and discovery.


Unlike solitary reading, podcasts can reinforce HCPs’ closeness with peers as well as the broader professional community. According to JCEHP, “listening to podcasts helped [doctors] to acculturate to the norms and values of their professional community by signposting shared language connections and exploring common challenges.” Because podcasts can foster both shared experiences and exposure to broader, transnational content, HCPs also feel connected to “the professional community at large.”

How do podcasts appeal to different types of HCPs?

Podcasts are popular among healthcare professionals across fields and at all stages of their careers, including advanced practitioners. Here is a closer look at why podcasts appeal to certain listeners based on maturity and specialization.

Students and residents

“Medical education podcasts are being adopted at all training levels,” the Journal of General Internal Medicine (JGIM) reports. Podcasts are highly popular among residents, where 88% listened to a medical education podcast at least once per month, the JGIM study found. The ease with which residents can listen to podcasts while engaging in other activities appeals to their desire to use their time as productively as possible as well, says Academic Medicine.

Emergency medicine practitioners

Across nearly two-dozen fields, podcasts whose content focuses on emergency medicine are among the most common and most popular among HCPs. In 2020, a peer-reviewed study in Cureus found 28 active podcasts with over 2,434 episodes about emergency medicine—more than in any other field—where each podcast had 76 episodes on average. “By far, emergency medicine put out the most content of any specialty and the content was the most evenly produced,” the article reports.

Specialized fields

Emerging podcasts in specialized fields represent high-value learning opportunities for those HCPs. This is especially true given how little robust, digitally available content currently exists in those areas of focus compared to more populated fields—such as emergency medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics—which feature the most active podcasts, according to the Cureus study. “There is significant room in most specialties to expand content with specialty-specific podcasts,” the study found.

Post-training and advanced practitioners

“Preliminary data demonstrates that ... post-training physicians and advanced practitioners all utilize podcasts for their own benefit,” according to JGIM. This is due in part to the availability of highly specialized, often cutting-edge content that is not confined to coveted lecture halls or prestigious institutions. Many podcasts also offer continuing medical education (CME) and maintenance of certification (MOC) credits, with thousands of CME credits claimed for a single podcast in only 6 months, JGIM reports.

A growth channel for healthcare industry content

Podcasts have solidified their place of relevance within both formal and personal learning experiences among HCPs. This is due to both their convenience and availability, as well as their power in delivering practical and coveted knowledge that improves the healthcare practice as a whole.

Even so, industry researchers and experts are only beginning to appreciate the extent to which podcasts have become an important piece of the universal HCP experience. In future pieces, we will explore the content elements that make up a successful podcast. These include not only expert interviews and discussions but also storytelling with narrative formats, as several journals describe.

If you’re interested in engaging HCPs in meaningful ways through podcasts, what better way to learn than through podcasts themselves?

Contact us to learn to how you can engage your target audience with podcasts.
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