MP3 players aren't just for teenagers downloading their favorite tunes — they're also for docs to download CME. At least, that's the hope of CME providers who are podcasting their audio CME content so healthcare providers can download an activity, plug it into an iPod or other MP3 device, and learn on the go.

“We started podcasting our content last July because, quite honestly, we thought it would be cool,” says Christopher Perez, managing partner, CME Outfitters LLC, Rockville, Md. “We knew how to do it, we're sitting on this mountain of digitized media, and we thought it would be pretty simple to put it into an RSS feed and turn it into a podcast.” Lon Osmond, vice president and executive editor with Audio-Digest Foundation, Glendale, Calif., says his organization began distributing some of its content through MP3 format earlier this year for similar reasons. “It's the sizzle factor,” he says. “We've always tracked the trends in the music industry, and making audio available in MP3 format was the way radio stations were getting information out. Since so much of our information is already digitized, it was a no-brainer.”

“The cool thing about podcasting is we can bundle PDFs in with the different activities,” says Perez. “So if it's an audioconference we're podcasting through an MP3 file, we can bundle in a PDF of the post test, the slides, the credit request forms, the evaluation forms, instructions — everything the docs need when they download the file.”

But are docs ready for podcast CME? Some are, say both Perez and Osmond, although it's not taking off like wildfire — yet. “Our numbers show that about 20 percent of our online audience have adopted podcasting, maybe not as their preferred format, but certainly as a regular format in which they get their CME,” says Perez.

While Osmond notes that anesthesiologists and emergency medicine practitioners took to Audio-Digest Foundation's MP3 downloads like ducks to water — they have been by far the early adopters of podcasting, he says — other types of physicians haven't been swarming to the podcast version of his company's CME offerings.

It may just be that it's one more technology to learn, and older physicians in particular might not want to take the time to learn how to set up the downloads, he says. Perez agrees that younger folks who are familiar with iPods for music downloading might be more likely to get their CME this way. Also, a lot of potential CME “podcastees” may want to stick with what they know, at least until their tape deck breaks or their organization offers more updated equipment.

“People need to feel a little more comfortable with it,” says Perez, which is why CME Outfitters' Web site includes a primer on the technology. “We wanted to demystify it, show how easy it is,” he says. Osmond says his organization has trained its customer-service staff to understand the technology, so they can walk doctors through the basics.

“It's no different than the transition from tapes to CDs. This is just one of the next vehicles for delivering audio,” says Osmond. “It's irrelevant to us what they use; we're delivering the content in whatever medium the physician can access most easily.” Perez says, “We're always looking for ways to add value to what we're offering. Podcasting is a natural. Once people realize how easy it is to do, it'll be ubiquitous.”