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Pod Pointers from 5 of our HITMC Award Podcast Honorees

With the 2020 Medigy HITMC Award ceremony just around the corner, we thought it would be fun to get some thoughts and ideas from some of our esteemed honorees and share them with the community.

Given that June is Virtual Events month here at HITMC, we thought – why not ask our 2020 Medigy HITMC Award Podcast Honorees to share the latest and greatest on podcasting. So we asked each of them 5 questions. This is what they said:

1. In your opinion, what has fueled the explosion in podcasting over the past several years?

Bill Russell host of This Week in Health IT
My first podcast was the cloud computing podcast in 2008 and our listeners told us that the podcast format was a great way to gain insights from industry leaders that they normally would not have had access to. The thing that has changed since then has been the technology and the ease of distribution. It was no small task to produce a decent podcast in 2008, but today it can be as simple as recording a phone call or zoom session. These tools are accessible to anyone with an idea and a potential audience. The number of end-points has also exploded providing a much larger potential audience for a shows content.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital hosts of The MomDocs
We are a society of multitaskers, and moms are master multitaskers! Podcasts allow us to take in information that entertains or informs us without pausing our other activities. The content is easily digestible, and oftentimes brief in length. Due to the dawn of streaming services, such as Spotify, podcasts are easy to find and easy to play through our smart phones, adding to the convenience factor

Niko Skievaski host of The Redox Podcast
I’d say there are a couple of factors. First off, barriers to content creation and distribution have come way down. Anyone can make a podcast with basic equipment and get it listed for global consumption. This has allowed an endless amount of topics covering any angle of niche interests. Secondly, for listeners, a podcast creates a convenient, genuine, way to passively consume content while driving or doing other activities. (Although, I have heard from some listeners that they’re having trouble finding time to listen these days because commutes are no longer a part of daily life.)

Jason Wolf and Tiffany Christensen hosts of To Care is Human 
As individuals, we all lead busy lives, yet there are some intrinsic moments of down time as well, which many of us would like to take advantage of in a productive manner. Podcasts set forth a way to capitalize on those routine moments such as commuting or, while in quarantine, completing house chores. Listeners understand that they can make the most of their limited time by playing a podcast, multi-tasking and learning at the same time. This is unique to podcasting as other forms of content require the audience’s complete attention such as watching something or reading. Additionally, in a connected society we have come to appreciate that we can and must learn from one another; podcasting has provided the perfect medium for that to occur.

Nina Friar of VCU Health Podcasts
Podcasts offer a unique and flexible format for storytelling that appeals to those with busy lives, as well as those who have some time to spare. Seventy-seven percent of people will click and listen immediately to a podcast, with 80 percent hearing most, if not all, of a podcast, according to Edison.

Short-format podcasts – such as Healthy with VCU Health – allow listeners to get a quick dose of information from top experts on a variety of topics that could impact their health, making it an easy educational tool for people on the go. Healthy with VCU Health provides us with a growing and popular channel to reach our listeners where and when they want information. The unscripted, short, radio-style conversations with top experts appeal to listeners as an informative, engaging, and fun way to learn. We closely monitor our podcast metrics and adapt our editorial calendar to ensure our content remains relevant and engaging.

Joy Rios and Robin Roberts hosts of HIT Like a Girl
I think there are several contributing factors to podcasts exploding over the past several years. For one, it’s a downloadable medium that can travel wherever you go. For those of us who travel a lot for work, or at least used to, we could listen to topics that are hyper-focused at times of our convenience. Whereas I used to listen to podcasts while sitting on a tarmac, taking the shuttle to the car rental facilities, or driving – times when I couldn’t be in a business meeting – now I listen while walking my dog or even while taking a shower. When you’re interested in learning something, or even being entertained, without having a screen in your face, podcasts are a great option.

 

2. Have you changed your approach to your podcast given everything that has been going on in the world these past few months?

Bill Russell host of This Week in Health IT
Our mission is to amplify great thinking to propel healthcare forward. The thing which changed was the urgency of access to the best thinking that is required in a time of crises. We immediately went from 2 shows weekly to daily shows and reached out to as many industry leaders as we could who would share their wisdom and experience with the community. The response was slow at first since many of our guests were supporting the front lines but eventually we were able to get health leaders from New York to North Dakota to identify the best practices that were being done in the industry. Given the time pressure our guests were under we went to 15 minute interviews and we started utilizing every mechanism available to us to make it easy for someone to be a guest on the show. We sent over the questions ahead of time, we utilized scheduling software for them to select the best time on our calendar without the normal back and forth and we jumped right into the interview within minutes of getting on the line with the guest. Much of this will likely not change going forward.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital hosts of The MomDocs
We’re all about keeping up with the times. Research shows that moms seek medical information from the Internet and other moms primarily, so we want to be both a source of expertise and empathy for listeners. When COVID-19 became a national health crisis, we added a podcast regarding COVID-19 and children specifically with one of our pediatric infectious disease physicians. We also utilize social listening and data via the ChildrensMD website to figure out which topics are of interest and/or concern to our target audience and create future content accordingly.

Niko Skievaski host of The Redox Podcast
Absolutely. Like many people in our industry, we’re trying to figure out what the future of healthcare will look like post-pandemic. I’ve used the podcast as a way to dive into these topics with people much smarter than me.

An unintended – but wonderful – benefit of recording conversations while people are at home is capturing a bit of the “human side” of the experts we interview. The people we talk with are typically well-known industry leaders. Hearing their professional insights is the primary purpose of our podcasts, but having occasional and unscripted “appearances” by children and pets adds a delightful personal touch. The topics we discuss in healthcare IT are important, serious and often complex. But, ultimately, we’re all in this to help improve the healthcare system, and, by extension, boost the quality of life for patients everywhere. It’s easy to forget we’re in the “people business” – listening.

Jason Wolf and Tiffany Christensen hosts of To Care is Human
We certainly have adapted the To Care is Human podcast to address current events including the COVID-19 pandemic. We invited guests to the podcast including Sven Gierlinger at Northwell Health, Dr. Shantanu Agrawal at National Quality Forum, Dr. Craig Rackley at Duke University Hospital, Linda Knodel at Kaiser Permanente, and Dr. Justin Bright at Henry Ford in Detroit. Each of these guests has direct experience working to fight the current pandemic on the frontlines. By sharing their stories, we aim to help keep listeners informed on current events as well as let them know what they can do to proactively help the situation. Furthermore, many of the questions that podcast hosts Jason Wolf and Tiffany Christensen asked in these interviews have been focused on making connections. Their questions have highlighted the central theme of the human experience in healthcare, while underscoring the impact and realities of the current COVID-19 pandemic

Nina Friar of VCU Health Podcasts
We strive to educate and empower prospective and current patients to make informed choices – especially when circumstances evolve that could impact their health. We keep our pulse on what our audience wants to hear, the news that matters to them, and the information we feel is important to share so they can stay up to date on the latest, evidence-based information from our leading academic health care system.

During this pandemic we observed an increase in social media usage with stay-at-home orders and a heightened desire for evidence-based, trustworthy information from experts. VCU Health focused on providing people relevant and timely episodes during COVID-19 to help them understand the virus, and ways they can take care of themselves in this “new normal.” This included:

  • Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, director of VCU Health’s Infection Prevention Program, on “Why and how we should flatten the curve with COVID-19”
  • Dr. Stephen Miller, assistant professor of emergency medicine at VCU Health, on “Seeking emergency care during COVID-19”
  • Dr. Katy Maher, clinical psychologist in VCU Health’s Level I Trauma Center, on “Tools to help you cope with the trauma of COVID-19”

Joy Rios and Robin Roberts hosts of HIT Like a Girl
We recorded the bulk of our Season 4 HIT Like a Girl podcast episodes after HIMSS got canceled, so conversations that we had planned to take place in person in a media room ended up taking place remotely, from home. Although we pivoted to being much more understanding of hearing dogs or children in the background and talking about how the Coronavirus has affected our work and home-life, the structure of our podcast remained the same. If anything, it helped spotlight some smart business choices guests and their organizations made to quickly pivot to address the needs of the times.

 

3. What value does your podcast bring to your organization?

Bill Russell host of This Week in Health IT
We find our distinction in looking for content that is pragmatic. We want to uncover ideas and solutions that people can implement. The number of people talking about telehealth today is overwhelming, but with my background as a former CIO for a health system my goal is to go beyond the observation that telehealth expanded during COVID-19 and look at what people are doing in the industry post-COVID. What will the funding source be, what modalities will continue, and what strategies and tactics are the best health systems putting in play.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital hosts of The MomDocs
It’s rapidly becoming a popular asset to the ChildrensMD website, as well as the MomDocs brand. It provides meaningful content to our target audience, and helps to establish St. Louis Children’s Hospital as a leader in competent, compassionate pediatric care. It provides a medium for parents to receive succinct, easy-to-understand health information straight from the experts.

Niko Skievaski host of The Redox Podcast
The podcast allows us to live some of our core company values. Namely, “inhabit your learning zone” and “educate each other and the world.”

Jason Wolf and Tiffany Christensen hosts of To Care is Human
The To Care is Human podcast provides an outlet for everyone at The Beryl Institute to hear from outside voices and leaders in the field what is happening in the healthcare industry. Our community is able to explore the healthcare industry from multiple different perspectives including patients, families, healthcare providers and healthcare executives. By illustrating this layered and complex view of healthcare, our team at The Beryl Institute is better able to understand and serve community members as well as rapidly expand both the boundaries and reach of the conversation on the human experience in healthcare.

Nina Friar of VCU Health Podcasts
This podcast reinforces our mission to preserve and restore health for all people, and serves as an additional tool to help us educate our patients and the community at-large. Our podcast also opens the door for the community to learn more about the variety of VCU Health services, programs and research we have underway. When we feature innovative, cutting-edge initiatives, we also generate excitement and pride among our team members – many of whom now request to be featured!

Joy Rios and Robin Roberts hosts of HIT Like a Girl
The HIT Like a Girl podcast brings a ton of value to the Chirpy Bird organization. It not only offers us a platform in which we get to network with and learn from accomplished women in healthcare, health IT, and medicine, but it also gives us an opportunity to give back to them by sharing their contributions, challenges, and expertise with a broader audience. This gives them content to promote as well as shares more of what is possible, career-wise, with our listeners. We like to think it is a win/win/win. Plus, several conversations we’ve had on the podcast have become the start of a business relationship.

 

4. Do you have any tips on how to convince executives to continue supporting podcasting?

Bill Russell host of This Week in Health IT
A great guest gives me two things to think about and potentially act on. My first advice is to podcasters, don’t make people search for the great content. Call it out, pull it forward, and make it accessible. People in healthcare don’t have time to listen to podcasts every day. I was recently asked by a health system CIO if I could highlight the best five episodes that he should listen to. I thought about the request and realized, that is the request of someone that is under a serious amount of time pressure but wants to hear the best thinking that is available. Know your audience and what they expect from you.

To an executive I would say that you can get 80% of the value of a conference today from content that is freely available on podcasts, webinars and articles. Your budget is going to be tight over the next 18 months so I would suggest you focus your energy on finding the most relevant content and promoting it within your team. There is no reason for your team to fall behind just because budgets are tight and your system has travel restrictions. Create a learning culture. Find your podcast listeners and ask them to highlight the best content for your team. You are only as good as your people. Podcasts are a great way to keep them current.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital hosts of The MomDocs
Show them the numbers! In just year, we built a podcast from the ground up and have received 5,057 episode interactions, 433 additional website visits and 310 downloads.

Niko Skievaski host of The Redox Podcast
Listen and participate!

There are a few advantages to producing a podcast:

  • Your organization controls the content
  • It exposes your company to potentially a broader audience, which offers an opportunity to network with industry leaders. Those exchanges may lead to business relationships in the future
  • It can greatly expand your company’s mind-share.

Jason Wolf and Tiffany Christensen hosts of To Care is Human
There are multiple ways that executives can see the value in supporting podcasting. First, it is a free or relatively low-cost method of communicating and marketing. It allows a long-form and nuanced perspective to be depicted in a way that allows the audience to absorb information in a less structured manner. Additionally, it is important for executives to understand that there are very few other communication outlets that individuals will listen to in their free time, when not physically at work. Podcasting is a way to capture audience attention beyond the “9 to 5.” It also delivers a real, practical and informal means to communicate core ideas in a profound way. Podcasting ensures messages are heard, not via meme or advertisement, but rather through honest stories of practice.

Nina Friar of VCU Health Podcasts
At VCU Health, we have seen success by aligning the objectives of our podcast with the mission and strategic objectives of our organization. We regularly share analytics and measurements of success against agreed-upon objectives.

Joy Rios and Robin Roberts hosts of HIT Like a Girl
Unfortunately, no, we do not have advice on how to convince executives to continue supporting podcasting. We are 100% self-funded and have stopped looking for support in the form of sponsorship or advertising dollars. Although we don’t doubt that the budget exists, we have gone without support and rely on the intrinsic and inherent value of the work we do. This is in part because we don’t feel the typical metrics of success apply or align with what they may be expecting in return. We’re not looking for 1 million downloads or to be the next Marc Maron or Joe Rogan. We want to be an example of what’s possible for women who want grow professionally, because we feel like we’re filling a gap of what’s not filled elsewhere, and if that means it only affects 10 people, we still feel like the effort is worth it.

 

5. Is there one piece of podcasting advice that you’d like to share with HITMC? (Note: the more unexpected/unique the advice the better!

Bill Russell host of This Week in Health IT
Shut up. Seriously, stop talking and ask better questions. I do about 30 minutes of research for each show. The research is focused on developing the questions to get the best content out of my guest for the community. Sometimes I can’t help myself and I talk too much. I realized early on that I needed an outlet to share my thoughts so I created a show just to share my thinking on what is going on in the world of Health IT, but when I’m doing an interview I’m now focused on getting the best out of my guest for the good of the community. If they want to hear me pontificate they can tune in on Tuesday.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital hosts of The MomDocs
There is nothing better for a worried mom to hear a doctor say, “Is it a daily fight to get your kids off the screens? Me too!” or “Ugh, nothing’s worse than a baby who JUST WON’T SLEEP, am I right?!” Moms derive comfort and support from our MomDocs, who, while being medical experts, have their own parenting struggles. They can sympathize, and they can also help.

Niko Skievaski host of The Redox Podcast
Don’t be afraid to go off-script a bit. Not every question has to be set up ahead of time.

Also, don’t be afraid to humanize the discussion and have some fun. The more you and your guests enjoy the human, authentic experience, the more likely the listeners / viewers will feel that energy and enjoy it too.

Jason Wolf and Tiffany Christensen hosts of To Care is Human
One piece of advice for hosting a podcast is to be a terrific listener and maintain a sense of flexibility at all times. Furthermore, find a way to be fascinated by your guest because that fascination permeates the conversation while drawing in the listener. When interviewing or having a conversation with a guest it is great to prepare ahead of time, but the host must be willing to adapt and transition questions depending on where the conversation goes. The most powerful stories are those that are told organically. The host should recognize when those are coming to fruition and delve deeper, rather than transitioning to a prescribed talking point. The key is that a podcast host is not an interviewer, but a guide that must work to provide a safe and open space for guests to bring their whole self. Ultimately the receptivity of the host also becomes the model for how a listener will engage with each guest as well.

Nina Friar of VCU Health Podcasts
Our advice is to follow the three P’s of podcasting: plan, publish, promote. Planning is an important and often overlooked step. The adaptable format of a podcast allows us to find the right experts to provide advice and information in the context of current events, so creating a flexible editorial calendar is key. Our clinicians and researchers are passionate experts, and we partner with them early on, before recording, to help them distill often-complex findings and medical-advice to our audiences in a conversational and relaxed way.

Joy Rios and Robin Roberts hosts of HIT Like a Girl
If you’re going to start a podcast, do it because you are passionate about the topic, not because you’re expecting a return on your investment. It will be a lot of work and your success may not be defined by dollars, but instead by impact, which is much harder to quantify. We had a listener tell us that she changed her university major from nursing to nursing informatics after listening to one of our episodes, because she didn’t even know that it was an option before. We will never be able to quantify how that piece of information changed the course of her life and how that seemingly small change will impact the world. The reward of knowing the impact we might have is priceless.

 

Photo by James McKinven on Unsplash

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Brittany

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The Healthcare and IT Marketing Community (HITMC) is an extension of the HITMC conference that is the first of its kind event that brings together marketing and PR professionals from throughout the health care community. We strive to provide amazing marketing and PR related content that helps HealthIT companies and healthcare organizations  stand out amidst all the noise of the industry. If you’re looking to market to hospital executives, doctors, practice managers, patients, or other healthcare professionals, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to the HITMC community!