The Coffey Blog
Interviewing doctors: How to get a great healthcare story
Dava Walker, Writer
Doctors are everyday heroes. They bring babies safely into the world. They ensure comfort and dignity for the dying. They help patients cope with chronic conditions and perform near-miracles with scalpels, deft fingers and a storehouse of clinical expertise.
And as sources for your healthcare marketing materials, they have some pretty amazing brains to pick. Whether you're introducing a new surgeon in your hospital's e-newsletter or promoting a service line in your healthcare magazine, tapping into your doctors' gray matter can help tell your brand's story.
7 best practices for interviewing doctors
Interviewing an expert doesn't have to be intimidating, as long as you do your homework. These 7 tips can help you get the story you need—and make the most of a busy doctor's time.
1. Train your own brain. Knowing as much as possible about the condition or procedure you'll be discussing helps you compose great questions that will help make your story valuable for healthcare consumers.
Research the doctor too. This will help you establish rapport and may spark some interesting questions. You might:
- Check your doctor's profile page on the hospital website or LinkedIn.
- Do a Google search for published research.
- Read any blog posts the doctor has written.
- Talk to a patient your doctor treated, if that's part of the story you're writing. When possible, do this interview first so you can share positive feedback with the doctor.
2. Book the interview. Adding an interview to a hectic day can be challenging for doctors. To win space in a tightly booked schedule:
- Request the interview as far in advance as your deadline allows.
- Explain how much of the doctor's time you'll need.
Tell the physician what your story's healthcare marketing goal is—and why you think he or she is the best expert to help tell the story.
3. Prepare your source. Once you've set up an interview, help the doctor get ready to answer questions:
- Provide an advance list of some questions you'd like to cover. You don't have to feel constrained by this list during the actual interview. But it may help put your source at ease to know what's coming.
- Offer a heads-up if the story will feature a patient. This gives your source time to refresh his or her memory about that particular case.
Pro tip: Try to do your interview in person or by phone instead of by email. This lets you easily ask follow-up questions.
4. Push past the jargon. Start the interview with a reminder that you're writing for a nonmedical audience. If your doctor describes something you think readers might not understand, try these strategies to clarify the issue:
- Paraphrase what you heard, ending with "Did I get that right?"
- Ask the doctor to explain again in the words he or she uses with patients.
- Ask whether the doctor uses any analogies or metaphors to help patients understand complex concepts.
5. Ask follow-up questions. Prompt the doctor to give you the telling details that will draw your readers in. For example, if a story features a patient, you might ask what was memorable or unique about the case or how it compared to similar cases.
If you're promoting a procedure, try to find out any interesting clinical details. For example, "You said there's less blood loss with da Vinci surgery. How much blood are we talking about compared with traditional open surgery?"
6. Add a personal touch. Including personal details helps to humanize a doctor so readers can connect. And that, in turn, may bring the doctor's name to mind when a reader needs a specialist or a new primary care provider.
Among our favorite questions for finding out about a doctor as a person:
- What attracted you to this area of medicine?
- Was there a moment in your life when you said, "This is what I have to do"?
- What's your favorite way to stay fit—or relax?
7. Get a take-home message. Before wrapping up, ask if there's anything you didn't cover that readers should know. This question often elicits some of the best responses.
Telling healthcare stories—it's what we do
Looking for tips to help you interview patients? Read last week's blog post.