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Healthcare content5 min read Interviewing doctors: How to get a great healthcare story

Interviewing a medical expert doesn't have to be intimidating when you follow these 8 tips.

March 10, 2021The Coffey Team

Has your hospital recently hired a new cardiologist? Do you have a new surgery or a growing service line your CEO wants you to promote? If so, it may be time to talk to the doctor.

As sources for your healthcare marketing materials, doctors and other providers have some pretty amazing brains to pick. But doctors are busy and don’t always have a ton of time to talk. And they sometimes use terms your readers (or you!) may not understand. Also, they may not understand your marketing goals.

8 great ways to get the most from interviewing doctors

Interviewing an expert doesn't have to be intimidating. These 8 tips can help you get the story you need while making the most of a busy doctor's time.

  1. Do your homework. Being prepared is the best way to get a great interview. Check out a resource like to learn about a condition or procedure you'll be discussing.

Do some research on the doctor too. This can help you establish a relationship and may spark some interesting questions. You might:

  • Check the 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.
  1. Schedule the interview in advance. Adding an interview to a hectic day can be difficult for doctors to do. To win space in a tightly booked schedule:
  • Call or send an email requesting an interview as far in advance as possible.
  • Let the doctor or office assistant know how much time you'll need and when you hope to talk to them.
  • Explain what your story's healthcare marketing goal is—and why you think this doctor is the best expert to help tell the story. This will help ensure that you will get the content you need during the interview.
  1. Prepare the doctor with some preview questions. Once you have an interview scheduled and the doctor knows your marketing goals, work on your questions. Remember to speak for your readers. What will they want to know? For example, if you’re writing about a medical procedure, you could ask questions such as:
  • What are the goals of this surgery?
  • What are the benefits of this surgery?
  • What does the surgery involve?
  • What is the recovery period like?
  • Who is a candidate?

Once you have prepared some questions, send them to the doctor ahead of time. They appreciate that! Also, having the questions in advance may yield more thorough answers.

  1. Push past the jargon. At the start of the interview, remind the doctor this story is aimed at a nonmedical audience—potential patients. During the interview, resist the urge to use any medical terms you may happen to know. Saying nonoperative modalities instead of nonsurgical treatment options could prompt your doctor source to slip down the medical jargon slope.

But what if, despite your best efforts, the doctor describes something in medical jargon anyway? You can almost count on it happening at least once! Here are some ways you might clarify the issue:

  • Rephrase what you heard and ask, "Did I get that right?"
  • Ask the doctor, “How would you explain that to a patient?”
  • Ask whether the doctor uses any analogies or metaphors to help patients understand complicated concepts. Think: Clogged arteries are like clogged pipes.
  • Ask the doctor to summarize the main points or patient benefits? Often, when you hear something a second time it may make more sense.
  1. Ask, listen, repeat. Ask a question and listen carefully for telling details that will interest your readers. Be prepared to follow up with questions like “Why is that?” and “Tell me more about that.” If the doctor says something interesting, say so. “Wow, that’s amazing” will often generate a great follow-up quote.

Prompt the doctor to give interesting details and powerful comments too. For example:

  • If a story features a patient, ask what was memorable or unique about the case.
  • If you're promoting a procedure, find out any interesting clinical details. For example, "You said the incisions are smaller with da Vinci surgery. How small are the incisions?" Better yet: “How does the diameter of the surgical incisions compare with an everyday object like, say, a pencil?”
  • If you’re promoting a service, ask a question like, “How does this help people in their daily lives?”
  • If you want a quote that encourages readers to take action, ask, “If you had a patient in front of you right now, what would you say to that person?”
  1. Remember: Stories are about people. Add a personal touch by including details that help to humanize a doctor so readers can connect. That’s especially helpful when interviewing for a new provider profile. And that, in turn, may bring the doctor's name to mind when a reader needs a specialist or a new primary care provider. Some potential questions to ask:
  • When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?
  • Where is home for you? What was it like growing up there?
  • What do you like to do when you’re not seeing patients?
  • Do you have a spouse or partner and children we could mention?
  • What is most gratifying to you about offering this procedure or service?
  • What do you want your patients to know about your approach to their healthcare?

Even stories about medical procedures or chronic disease care can be made more humanizing by asking the right questions. Consider:

“How does this procedure changes lives?” Or, “You must find your work very rewarding. What is the best part about being a diabetes educator?”

Listen carefully when you ask a question like that. You just might find your lead.

  1. Organize your questions. If your interview will be very brief, ask your most important questions first—in case time runs out. Ask the doctor if you can follow up by email, in case you do run out of time or need to clarify something during your writing.
  2. Leave no stones unturned. As you near the end of your interview, start winding down by asking a reflection question. This helps the doctor synthesize the information and get to the heart of the message. For instance, “We’ve talked about a lot of things. What do you hope people will remember?”

End by asking if there's anything the doctor would like to add that wasn't discussed in the interview. You never know if you've missed an important question or area of interest.

Telling healthcare stories—it's what we do.

Coffey writers understand how to give doctors a human face that makes your brand shine. We've been telling stories and creating exceptional content for decades. To learn how we can help promote your doctors, give us a call at 888.805.9101 or email us.