While some podcasts might be useful for some clinicians in some circumstances, I think that text is, and will likely always be, king.
Text is searchable. It can be browsed or skimmed quickly. Most clinicians (and most people) can read more words per minute than comfortably listen to in the same time. Clinicians making use of medical libraries are usually looking for some very specific information.
That being said, here’s how I think Podcasts will get cooler, and better for medical purposes:.
Eventually, the metadata of an audio file (any audio file) should contain not just a text transcript of the audio content, but searchable transcript, indexed to minutes and seconds of the audio. Lets say you want to download the latest Library 2.0 Gang podcast specifcally because you want to hear the first thing Michael Stephens has to say on the topic du jour. You should be able to search the Podcast for the word “Stephens”, select the first first hit in the returned search results, and be taken instantly to the first moment in the audio when the word “Stephens” is spoken.
Imagine the usefulness of such a feature for a clinician attempting to find specific details in a podcast he/she has downloaded.
Audio content producers will need to bundle transcripts/lyrics into the metadata of the audiofile, and playback devices need to be able to search them. I doubt this functionality is far away.
Michelle Kraft (who is in my mind a guru of medical podcasts- see links at the bottom of this post) has repeatedly and rightly raised the issue of the need for a catalogue or searchable index of medical podcasts.
Thanks to T. Scott Plutchak’s comment at the Krafty Librarian, we know that the cataloging of medical pocasts is on the radar of the NLM. Imagine how helpful the ability to search the text of podcast transcriptions would be to those good folks at the NLM who will eventually be responsible for cataloging podcasts.
Then there’s the cool factor- Imagine that you KNOW one of the songs on your iPod has the lyrics, “I listen to the Clash”- but you don’t remember which band or song. How cool would it be if you could search the contents of your iPod by lyrics, and jump instantly to playing the right verse of the right song, Hitchhiker’s Guide, by Speechwriters, LLC. ([Lyrics], [mp3])
More reading on medical podcasting
Michelle Kraft’s poster at MLA ’06
Posts on podcasting at The Krafty Librarian
Michelle Kraft’s list of medical podcasts
Dean Giustini and Jeremiah Saunders on Podcasting