The Coffey Blog
Writing great healthcare stories: What is the best way to interview patients?
They're happening around you, probably every day: compelling human dramas unfolding in your hospital and care centers. These are the stories of patients whose lives have been changed by your service lines, clinicians' expertise and compassionate staff.
These patient stories can make some of the best healthcare content. People love reading true stories—especially ones with a happy ending. Including them in your hospital's magazine, e-newsletter or on your website can put a human face on your brand by touching readers' hearts.
Telling these stories starts with a great patient interview.
7 patient interview best practices
Some healthcare marketers are born interviewers—always ready with the right questions. But, for most of us, interviewing skills develop with practice and over time.
Below is a list of advice from Coffey's team of healthcare writers on the best way to interview patients:
1. Focus on being a listener. Whether you're interviewing a patient face-to-face or by phone, don't forget that your main job is listening. So work on cultivating the habits of an empathic listener:
- In person, use positive body language. Make eye contact and lean slightly toward the person.
- Listen much more than you talk.
- Try not to interrupt (unless you don't understand something or you need to gently steer the interview back on track).
- Be sensitive to the person's emotions and comfort level.
- Don't rush. Allow the person to gather his or her thoughts as needed.
2. Define your story's purpose. Do you want to help readers understand a new surgical technique? Or inspire them to take a particular action, such as having a screening test?
Having a clear goal in mind can help you come up with the right questions to draw out the information you need.
Communicating that goal to the patient you're interviewing will also help them stay on track and give you the best possible information.
3. Take time to prepare for the interview. Don't try to wing it. Gather as much background information as possible about the person you'll be interviewing. Also take time to learn about the underlying topic. For example, if the backdrop of the interview is a type of surgery, learn as much about the surgery as you can.
It can be helpful to send your list of questions to the person before the interview. Let them know these are the general areas you'd like to talk about, but other questions might come up during the actual interview. Having questions in hand can make the patient more relaxed during your talk.
4. Ask the patient memory-jogging questions. The right questions can take people back and help them remember specific information.
Examples of questions to ask:
- 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 was most helpful during your treatment and recovery?
5. Make note of the details. As you listen, look for interesting tidbits that can help bring your story to life and help readers connect. They could be little things that reveal something about the person, such as:
- A pet's name.
- What a spouse or child said.
- How their coworkers pitched in.
6. Ask for positive feedback. Don't be shy about asking for specific details about your hospital's services.
Examples of questions to ask:
- What was the best thing about the healthcare you received?
- Why would you recommend our hospital to a friend?
7. Get written permission. 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.