The Best Medical Education App Ever

December 29, 2011, 5:16 pm

With so many high quality, worthwhile medical podcasts available online — and more coming it seems every day — a big problem I’ve found is keeping track of them all and knowing when a new post is available. The iTunes store is, frankly, a pain — cumbersome, cluttered, and not user-friendly.

I’ve just discovered Instacast, an app that makes it astonishingly easy to subscribe to and follow podcasts on an iPhone or iPad. Subscriptions are entered by touching one button, podcasts can be streamed or downloaded for off-line viewing, show notes can be browsed or followed while listening to or watching a podcast. Instacast makes the iPhone — and especially the iPad — an amazingly versatile medical education tool. It has quickly become my favorite app of all time. It is available from the iTunes app store for $1.99. Instacast HD for the iPad — with added functionality — is $4.99.

[Full disclosure: I have absolutely no association — financial or otherwise — with Instacast or Vemedio. I just love Instacast.]

Here are the medical podcasts I subscribe to:

  • EMCrit – Scott Weingart’s brilliant and entertaining discussion of topics that “bring upstairs care downstairs”, covering intensive care principles that are essential to the practice of emergency medicine.
  • Emergency Ultrasound Podcast – Mike Mallon and Matt Dawson break down even complex subjects like diastolic dysfunction and make them clear. The lectures have great illustrations and cases. I can’t imaging anyone interested in emergency ultrasound who would not want to view every episode. For a taste, check out the post about cardiac wall motion abnormalities. By the way, this podcast looks great on the iPad.
  • ERCast – Rob Orman and guests discuss important topics in emergency medicine. Recent podcasts have covered pediatric fever, RLQ pain in pregnancy, and spinal tap following a negative CT in suspected subarachnoid hemorrhage.
  • The Journal of Medical Toxicology Podcast — Each month, Drs. Howard Greller and Daniel Rusyniak review the current issue of J Med Toxicol.
  • Free Emergency Medicine Talks – This is an amazingly comprehensive set of lectures selected and posted by Joe Lex. Need I say more?
  • ToxTalk – Discussion from the toxicology service at the University of Massachusetts.
  • Smart EM – Drs. David Newman and Ashley Shreves provide in-depth discussion of focused questions in emergency medicine. Their episode about the recent NEJM article on acute otitis media in children was one of the most spectacular dissections of a medical paper I’ve ever heard.
  • EMRAP: Educators’ Edition – Rob Rogers, Amal Mattu, Mel Herbert and guests discuss all things related to medical education and academics.

For a comprehensive set of links to emergency medicine and toxicology blogs, see this database at Life in the Fast Lane.

Life is not all emergency medicine. Here is a list of my non-medical subscriptions on Instacast:

TED Talks

NPR: Fresh Air

NPR: Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me

This American Life

The Extension 720 Podcast

KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic


  1. Ryan E Says:

    I enjoyed instacast, but I have found Downcast to be the superior app.

  2. Leon Says:


    Thanks for the lead. I’ll try to check out Downcast also. One drawback might be that there doesn’t seem to be a specific version with extended functionality for the iPad.

    What do you like about Downcast? Does it have features that Instacast lacks?

  3. Ryan E Says:

    Multiple playback speeds, reliable downloads of podcast, and playlists. I had some bad luck with Instacast not having some podcasts and some of the podcasts I did download had playback problems.