Healthcare marketers know some of the most effective marketing comes from their patients. For example, who doesn’t love the cute kids in those Shriners Hospitals for Children TV commercials? It takes effort, though, to create patient stories that will resonate with your audience.
Even if you aren’t a journalist, these methods used by journalists can help you craft outstanding patient stories.
- Be prepared. Prior to interviewing the patient, find out everything you can about him/her. Talk with clinicians involved with the patient’s care. Ask why this particular patient is an interview subject – was it because a new treatment modality was involved, or a very complex course of care occurred? Once you’ve learned all you can about the patient, prepare your list of open-ended questions. And remember – it’s okay to deviate from your planned questions based on the patient’s responses to your questions.
- Elicit more information with open-ended questions. You won’t get much from “yes/no” questions. Instead of asking “Did you like Dr. Smith?”, ask “What was your experience with Dr. Smith like?” In addition to getting more information this way, you may be able to get information you didn’t think of based on how the patient answers your questions.
- It’s a conversation, not an interview. To put the patient at ease, don’t just run through your list of questions. Ask follow-up questions like “Can you tell me more about that?” or “Earlier, when you were talking about such-and-such, you mentioned so-and-so. Can you tell me more about that?”
- Record the conversation. This serves 2 purposes: it allows you to focus more completely on what the patient is saying and it provides confirmation of what was said.
- Location, location, location. If the patient is still in the hospital, find a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed and where background hospital noises (PA announcements, alarms, etc.) will be minimized. If the patient is not hospitalized, find a location that is convenient for the patient (especially if he/she has mobility issues due to their illness or procedure). Wherever you go, try to find a place with minimal distractions.
- Confirm your information. Once you have completed the conversation, be sure to go through it with the patient to make sure you have the facts straight.
- It’s the patient’s story, not yours. Allow the patient to tell his/her story in their own way while you listen. Don’t try to finish sentences, don’t make assumptions about where the story is going and don’t think ahead about your next question while the patient is still talking.
Does your organization use patient stories? If so, what is your process for creating them?