The power of patient interviews, part 1: story-telling

Capturing the human element with honest, compelling story-telling

Over the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing more than a dozen healthcare patients. I learned some valuable lessons about how to channel their experiences into compelling story-telling.

The interviews were videotaped for service line campaigns we produced for Ellis Medicine’s cardiac, maternity, oncology and bariatrics programs. The videos were edited into television spots, web videos and banner advertising.

Bariatrics Video – Kelly Taylor from SMITH & JONES on Vimeo.

In my first interviews, I went in with a list of questions designed to elicit the responses I believed would make a good video. I was nervous. The patients were nervous. They gave me short, somewhat stilted responses, a lot of yes and no answers, and when I reached the end of my questions, I had very little usable video.

With a little prompting from a very sharp creative director I know, I took a different approach to the interviews. I ditched my list and started a conversation with these people. We talked about their jobs, their families, their lives. Suddenly, they opened up. They shared poignant memories about how they discovered their conditions. They described what it felt like when they heard their diagnoses.

With each personal revelation and every emotion they recounted, their stories (and their videos) began to take shape. Characters and plot lines developed, the action built, climaxed and resolved. All revealed in an honest, open conversation.

And without bragging or making them the star, our hospital client became the real hero behind the story. That’s the power of the patient interview.