words by Maryann Brinley
GeriPod. The word itself is pure innovation, having been coined first at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine’s New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging (NJISA).
ross geriatrics and podcast and you get GeriPod: a short, audio production to download and listen to anytime, any place, while you walk, work, or drive. “This is mobile learning,” explains Pamela Basehore, EdD, MPH, assistant professor and associate director of the education center at NJISA. “We are always looking at new technology as a way to reinforce learning. When podcasting became popular a few years ago, we started to see it as a vehicle to reach out to our medical school community and beyond with the goal of interdisciplinary education in geriatrics for healthcare professionals.”
Basehore, the interviewer in the GeriPods, and Stephen M. Scheinthal, DO, associate professor, chief of geriatric behavioral health and associate director of NJISA at SOM, the expert, have produced four programs so far in what will eventually be a series of six devoted to mental health and aging. They are available through iTunes, via the SOM website, as well as in a national database of geriatric resources known as Portal of Geriatric Online Education (POGOe). While many podcasts are created quickly and casually by simply sitting in front of a personal computer with a microphone, Basehore and Scheinthal took a more formal route and went into the SOM media studio with a script, where they would work through five, six or seven takes to “get it right,” adding music to the beginning and end. “We wanted to achieve that radio station interview feel,” she says, “so we approached this with a little more intensity and practice.” Feedback has been positive.
The topics — from a two-part program on recognizing and treating depression in older adults, to managing behavior problems associated with dementia, as well anxiety in the elderly, and decision-making capacity — are thoroughly vetted by SOM’s Education Work Group which meets once a month. “This is a group of 15 faculty members from basic scientists to clinicians as well as educators who influenced and guided our podcasts,” Basehore says. Scheinthal adds, “And the energy level of this interdisciplinary group in that room during meetings is infectious. As a result, we are able to guide a lot of innovation into education.” They treated GeriPods just like curriculum development, identifying key issues with scripted questions, and using learning objectives.
Each production is about 15 minutes long “because otherwise you lose people’s attention,” Scheinthal says. The duo works well together on air. The power of podcasting lies in the short bursts of focused, critical information. Their target audiences are not only medical students but also busy primary care physicians in practice and nurse practitioners. “There is a real struggle in how to treat mental health issues in the older patient and a lot of miseducation. We see this in referrals here. GeriPods can disseminate high-quality, evidence-based geriatric mental health information. Believe it or not, the depression diagnosis in older adults is often missed, even in 2010,” Scheinthal says. Untreated depression in the elderly has serious consequences, is associated with memory loss and can progress to dementia. “The elderly are at the highest risk for suicide,” he explains. “That’s why we devoted an entire GeriPod to recognizing depression and a second one to treating it. Too often, practitioners will tell an older person, ‘Oh well, I’d be depressed, too, if I were in your situation.’”
Supported by a federal grant for geriatrics education that has been in place at SOM since 2005, this particular project was just funded for another five years. “These have been very labor intensive,” Basehore admits, “but fun to do. We hope to cover non-mental health topics in the future.” .