By MARY DELACH LEONARD
The medical professionals of Providence are the stars of Future of Health Radio, the health care system's new streaming radio station. Doctors, nurses, therapists and dietitians take turns behind the microphone answering questions from people who tune in for advice from trusted experts:
Will the flu shot give you the flu?
Is diet soda worse for you than regular soda?
What's the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?
"What we're hearing is not just 'I have questions,' but 'I have questions, and I want the answers from somebody I trust,'" said Mary Renouf, who helped develop the concept for Providence. "We have such a deep roster of clinical experts — our doctors, our nurses, our fitness experts, our dietitians — we could cover a new topic every hour of every day."
Providence partnered with Dash Radio, a digital broadcasting platform, to create Future of Health Radio. Listeners can access it online at DashRadio.com/FutureofHealth or through the Dash Radio app.
Programs cover all facets of health care — from emergency care to pregnancy to timely topics trending on social media like fasting or the keto diet. After programs air, they remain available as podcasts.
Future of Health Radio is the only brand-owned health care radio streaming station, and is just one more way for Providence to connect with the communities it serves, said Renouf, who hosts some of the segments.
"One of the things we're very focused on is health for a better world and really trying to be innovative," said Renouf, who worked in corporate social and brand media before joining Providence in 2017. She is an associate vice president of social and influencer strategy.
Beyond its educational value, the programming builds relationships with consumers before they need health care — and that includes millennials, who typically don't have primary care physicians, Renouf said.
"When they actually need health care is the first time that they're really engaging with the system," she said. "That was one of the reasons we said, 'OK, let's go find them where they already are.'"
Future of Health Radio taps into the growing number of people, particularly younger listeners, who access streaming radio and podcasts on their own terms — in their cars, or at work or the gym, Renouf said. In 2018, more than half of the U.S. population had listened to a podcast, up from 44 percent the year before, according to Edison Research.
Current Future of Health programs include:
- "Talk with a Doc," featuring Providence medical experts who tackle wide-ranging health questions, including those submitted by listeners through social media.
- "Future of Health," a discussion of health care trends and news.
- "Talk 2 Be Well" gives voice to teens who participate in conversations about mental health.
- "Do Tell Mama," which focuses on pregnancy and postpartum topics.
The Future of Health streaming channel is live 24/7. When the talk shows aren't airing, the station plays instrumental music and sleep and meditation sounds.
Mary Ann Dunlap, a nurse practitioner with the Providence Medical Group in Sherwood, Oregon, has participated on "Talk with a Doc." She views it as one more tool for educating people about health care.
"I love the idea of reaching people in a larger way than just the one-on-one that I need to do in the clinic," Dunlap said. "And it is the same sort of stuff that people do ask me in clinic."
Medical practitioners also learn from the listeners, Dunlap said.
"We did a segment on preventative care, and it was really interesting to hear what people wanted to know about what is involved in a preventative care visit," she said. "It made me more understanding of where people's apprehensions may be and what their questions are."
Taking the show on the road
Some Future of Health broadcasts are recorded at the Dash Radio studio in Los Angeles, but Renouf and her staff also set up temporary studios at the health system's hospitals "because we use really solid clinical experts and their time is so tight, trying to get them out of the office or out of a clinical setting and into a radio station was really challenging." Another key to successful broadcasts is briefing the experts so they know what to expect during the recording sessions, she said.
Words that heal
Future of Health launched in November, but it has been in the works for two years, Renouf said. It was originally developed as a single show and then as Real Life Radio, a pilot station aimed at increasing awareness of mental health and wellness.
Although the numbers for podcast downloads are just starting to come in, they indicate that the Future of Health audience is growing, Renouf said.
Julio Anaya, 37, an entertainment project manager from San Jose, Calif., listens to Future of Health Radio in his car.
"There's tons of information and self-help available on the Internet, but I think the fact that this is a trusted source — that is what separates it," Anaya said. "You can have people tell you certain things. You can look up things. Hear people talking. But when you actually have experts, that definitely makes you feel more comfortable."
Anaya said he is particularly interested in episodes that focus on mental health because he has dealt with some of those issues in his own life.
"It's almost like verbal medication," he said. "To be able to have a platform that caters to that. I mean, that's priceless."
Dash has more than 80 stations that produce original content with no commercials or subscription fees. An archive of past Future of Health shows can be found at Providence.org/FutureofHealthRadio or by searching "Future of Health" on most major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Listeners can reach the podcast staff on social media with the hashtag #FutureofHealth for a chance to hear their questions answered in an episode.
Providence recently added another show to its streaming programming. "Shop With Your Doc" enlists nutrition experts to answer listeners' questions on healthy eating and grocery shopping.
Providence, which is rebranding from Providence St. Joseph Health, has 51 hospitals in seven western states — Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington with system offices based in Renton, Wash., and Irvine, Calif.
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