The Coffey Blog

Interviewing patients: How to get a great healthcare story

Posted on: Monday, May 11, 2015

Dava Walker, Writer

You see them, maybe every day: compelling human dramas unfolding in your hospital and care centers. They're the stories of patients whose lives have been changed by your service lines, clinicians' expertise and caring staff.

These stories make for great healthcare content. Including them in your hospital's magazine, in your e-newsletter or on your website can increase awareness of your brand in a truly human way: by touching readers' hearts.

But first, you have to capture those stories through patient interviews.

7 patient interview best practices

Some healthcare marketers are born interviewers—always ready with the right question. But for most of us, interviewing skills develop with practice and over time.

So we could share collective wisdom here, we asked Coffey's healthcare Writers for their best tips and tricks. This group of pros has decades of experience interviewing patients for hospital magazines and websites.

1. Hone your listening skills. Whether you're interviewing a patient face-to-face or by phone, listening with empathy can help you connect. So work on cultivating these habits of an empathic interviewer:

  • In person, use positive body language. Make eye contact and lean slightly toward the person.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Take care not to interrupt.
  • Be sensitive to the person's emotions and comfort level.
  • Don't rush. Allow the person to gather his or her thoughts when needed.

2. Define your story's purpose. Do you want to help readers understand a new surgical technique? Inspire them to take a particular action?

Having a clear goal in mind can help you come up with the right questions to draw out the information you need.

3. Set aside time to prepare. Don't just wing it. To do a good interview, you need to know your topic and have some background about the person you're interviewing.

4. Help people remember. Give people's memories a nice nudge with questions that take them back, such as:

  • What did you think when you found out minimally invasive surgery was an option?
  • How did you feel the day you learned your cancer was in remission?
  • Who did you lean on for support during your treatment and recovery?

To prompt the most descriptive answers, ask open-ended questions. These often begin with who, what, when, where or how.

5. Clue in to interesting tidbits. As you listen, pay attention for details that can help bring your story to life—and help readers connect. They could be things that reveal a little something about the person, such as:

  • A hobby.
  • A pet's name.
  • What a spouse said.

Pro tip: Go digital. Got too much content for your magazine version? Post a follow-up article on your blog or website. And promote your story in social media.

6. Ask for positive feedback. Don't be shy about asking for specifics about your hospital's services, such as:

  • What was the best thing about the healthcare you received?
  • Why would you recommend our hospital to a friend?

7. Get written permission! Last, but certainly not least: Make sure that all your healthcare marketing adheres to the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Have procedures and policies in place to make sure you're doing what you need to do to protect your patients and your organization.

Telling healthcare stories—it's what we do

To learn how our content-creation team can help your brand shine through engaging custom-written stories, give us a call at 888.805.9101, or email us.